29 Jan 2019, 16.30

The Joint Committee on Education and Skills has called for a modern approach on how relationships and sexuality are taught in classrooms nationwide as part of a wide-ranging programme of reform.


The Committee has detailed its recommendations today in the Report on Relationships and Sexuality Education. The report reflects the Committee’s detailed review of the existing provision of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) and social, personal and health education (SPHE) in schools and youth organisations.


“Committee members acknowledge that while the current RSE and SPHE curriculum was viewed as progressive when introduced in 1999, it is necessary that it be updated to reflect the realities of Irish society today. Because parents are the primary educators of children, the Committee recognises that schools and parents need to forge a closer partnership in shaping children’s understanding of sexuality, and social responsibility,” said Committee Chair Fiona O’Loughlin TD.


“Since last May, the Committee has met parents’ organisations and many other groups involved in supporting Ireland’s youth. We have discussed in depth how to give young people a consistent, objective introduction to matters of well-being, identity and respectful sexual behaviour. This report takes their insights, observations and perspectives fully on board,” Deputy O’Loughlin said.


“The Committee hopes that the findings in this report will be taken on board by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment as part of the review it is currently undertaking and can advance the goal of delivering a revised national curriculum that is fully inclusive of the needs of LGBTQ+ students as well as those with special intellectual needs,” Deputy O’Loughlin said.


“Members likewise want to see a curriculum more strongly focused on teaching the values of sexual consent and on providing clearer, consistent guidance on contraception options. This education, we agree, should be provided from an earlier age.”

 

  • Among the report’s recommendations:
  • Funding for training teachers in RSE and SPHE should be guaranteed and ring-fenced.
  • The SPHE curriculum, published in 1999, should be updated and delivered to students at an earlier age.
  • The RSE curriculum should be updated to reflect modern views on gender and identity. It should be taught in an age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate manner.
  • The Department of Education and Skills should consider transferring oversight of curriculum delivery to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. It also should consider allowing primary teachers to specialise in SPHE.
  • External providers of RSE instruction should be regulated by the Department of Education and Skills, or the Health Service Executive, to ensure consistency and accuracy of information provided to students.
  • The Education Act 1998 should be reviewed to ensure that religious or institutional ethos cannot be cited as a barrier to teaching RSE and SPHE objectively and factually. Any legislative amendments required should come before the Oireachtas by late 2019.

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Committee membership

Deputies

Fianna Fáil

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Labour Party

Senators

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Independent

Committee membership

Deputies

Fianna Fáil

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Labour Party

Senators

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Independent