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School Curriculum

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 June 2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Questions (389)

Joe O'Brien


389. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Education if efforts will be made to ensure inclusivity and visibility of breastfeeding families in school textbooks and curricula; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29124/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Some curriculum specifications and the various syllabuses have specific curriculum content related to this topic. In subjects or modules where it is not specifically mentioned the topic of breastfeeding may occur during class conversation and through interactions with students.

For example, from a nutritional aspect the subject of breastfeeding may come up in Post Primary Home Economics when discussing healthy lifestyles and nutritional requirements across all ages. In the Leaving Certificate Applied Childcare/Community care module on the care of babies and young children, Unit 1 addresses breast and bottle feeding.

From a social aspect, Junior Cycle Home Economics includes Strand Two on exploring the roles and responsibilities of the family while Leaving Certificate Home Economics includes Topic 3.1.6: Family As A Caring Unit. In Leaving Certificate Applied Social Education,the module on Social and Health Education, Unit 2: Relationships –  the topic may be covered while discussing parenting and the needs that children have at various stages of their development.

Further relevant subjects would be within the SPHE curriculum. Junior Cycle SPHE Strand Two: Minding Myself and Others contains learning outcomes 2.3: describe what promotes a sense of belonging in school, at home and in the wider community and their own role in creating an inclusive environment and 2.4: distinguish between appropriate care giving and receiving. At Leaving Certificate level, SPHE aims to develop health literacy, both for the individual student and for groups. Health literacy is the capacity of individuals to obtain discerningly, interpret and understand health information; this includes the confidence to access health services and the competence to use such information and services in ways that enhance health. Once students’ health literacy skills are developed, they will be able to seek out relevant knowledge and information using a variety of sources including digital sources.

Additionally, the Department of Health has produced a Breastfeeding Information Pack for Junior Cycle students in Irish Secondary Schools.

The Information Pack was commissioned jointly by the Department of Health and the HSE Population Health Directorate, and developed by researchers from Health Promotion, Training & Support Services and Elm Training under the direction of a multidisciplinary, multisectoral expert advisory committee with representation from the relevant statutory and voluntary health services, SPHE coordinators and teachers from the relevant education sectors. The views and opinions of Junior Cycle students from a diversity of urban and rural schools were also pivotal in the development of the Information Pack.

The rationale for the initiative is contained in Action 42 of ‘Breastfeeding in Ireland: A Five Year Strategic Action Plan’ (Department of Health and Children, Oct. 2005), which recommended introducing breastfeeding information and promotion to schoolchildren at all levels of education within the context of the SPHE curriculum.

In general, my Department does not have a role in approving, commissioning, sponsoring or endorsing any content in any educational textbook. The current policy within my Department is not to endorse any particular product or publication, including textbooks. There are a small number of exceptions where my Department has procured textbooks or resources in order to fill a need – for example with Leaving certificate Japanese and Italian. However, as with all textbooks there is no obligation for a school to use these in their delivery of the curriculum. Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at post-primary, determined by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the decisions on which textbooks to use in primary and post-primary schools are taken at school level.

The majority of textbooks are commissioned and published by educational publishers, and schools select their books from those available from a number of publishers. The Irish Educational Publishers Association (IEPA) meets with the NCCA in order to discuss the curriculum and to be made aware of any requirements in the curriculum. However the content of any individual textbook is determined by the publisher themselves, and therefore any queries regarding specific content in any particular textbook should be directed to the publisher.

The role of the school is to provide an appropriate education for all its pupils.  A stable, secure learning environment is an essential requirement to achieve this goal.  Schools have autonomy in choosing the resources and programmes that best support the work within their own classrooms