Access to sexual and health education is an important right for students and it is equally important that this education meets the needs of students in their day-to-day lives and reflects models of best practice. The Department of Education continues to work closely with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, to give best effect to the commitment in the programme for Government to develop inclusive and age appropriate relationships and sexuality education, RSE, and social, personal and health education, SPHE, curricula across primary and post-primary levels, including an inclusive programme on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex, LGBTI+, relationships and making appropriate legislative changes, if necessary. The work of the NCCA draws on its report on the review of relationships and sexuality education in primary and post-primary schools, which was published in 2019.
As the Deputy will be aware from the Second Stage debate of the Private Members’ Bill tabled by him, arising from recommendations in that report the NCCA has been following a two-track approach on this work. First, the NCCA has a focus on developing support materials for teachers for publication online as part of the online guidance toolkit. The toolkits will support teachers in their engagement with the current SPHE-RSE curriculum in a confident and holistic manner and in a comprehensive way that meets the needs of young people today. Separate toolkits, which are being used by schools, are available for the primary, junior cycle and senior cycle curriculum areas. In tandem with this work, the NCCA is progressing the broader redeveloping and updating of the SPHE curriculum, with an initial focus on junior cycle. A draft revised junior cycle specification is due to be agreed at the NCCA council in advance of the summer, with a public consultation to follow. The final revised specification is due to be completed by the end of 2022 and rolled out in 2023 and will be followed by revised specifications for senior cycle and primary.
In addition to this, I have recently announced the Department's intention to provide funding for a new postgraduate programme to upskill registered post-primary teachers teaching SPHE and RSE. In the course of the programme, it is intended that each participant will be provided with high-quality content knowledge and will be empowered to become an effective and enthusiastic teacher of SPHE-RSE. The Department has recently engaged with higher education institutions and it is hoped that a number of them will be interested in designing and developing this programme.
I am keen to allow the NCCA time to complete its development work in this important and sensitive area. This is why, as the Deputy is aware, on Second Stage of the Bill on 16 November, the Government tabled a timed amendment that the motion be read in nine months’ time. My Department continues to engage closely with the NCCA to assist completion of this work.