Written Answers. - School Curriculum.

Liz McManus


62 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the reported plans of an organisation known as Family and Life to send an information pack to each secondary school in the country to combat what it regards as sex education propaganda; if his Department's consent has been sought or given for this project; if guidance is to be issued to schools as to the way in which they will deal with this material; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21755/02]

I am not aware of plans by an organisation known as Family and Life to distribute information packs to post-primary schools. The consent of my Department has not been sought. I would point out, however, that private individuals or organisations are entirely free to write to schools without the consent or approval of my Department.

Sex education in schools is normally delivered as part of social, personal and health education, SPHE. The introduction of SPHE, as part of the curriculum at primary and post-primary levels, represents the specific strategy being followed by my Department to provide young people with life skills and moral education. SPHE addresses issues such as substance misuse, both alcohol and drugs, relationships and sexuality education and suicide. In providing for SPHE as part of the curriculum, my Department is seeking to discharge its responsibility with regard to the educational dimension of children and young people's formation. Significant measures have been taken to ensure that quality SPHE programmes are introduced into all schools. However, I am sure that the Deputy will agree with me when I say that other groups, agencies and individuals also have significant responsibilities in the formation of young people. These include parents, church bodies and society in general.
In relation to the contribution that schools may make, SPHE programmes that are planned and consistent throughout the individual school will enable children and young people to develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and life skills that will inform their decisions and actions both during their time in school and in their future lives. As SPHE has a moral and spiritual dimension, its development and implementation are influenced significantly by the diachronic ethos and characteristic spirit of the school established by the patron bodies.
I would expect that school authorities would consider any material received by them, whether from the organisation referred to by the Deputy or from any other source, in the context of their school policies within the area concerned. I have no plans to issue guidelines to schools on this matter.
Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 27.