The report of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution included an ancillary recommendation that a thorough review of sexual health and relationships education be carried out. The Department of Health has established an intra-departmental group, chaired by the chief medical officer, to address the ancillary recommendations of the joint committee. Officials from my Department and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will engage with the Department of Health on this ancillary recommendation.
Access to sexual health and relationships education is an important right for students. Schools have a responsibility to provide for it, in consultation with parents, having regard to the ethos of the school. However, it is important to note that the ethos of the school must not preclude learners from acquiring the knowledge set out in the curriculum. Social, personal and health education, SPHE, which includes relationships and sexuality education, RSE, is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and the junior cycle. RSE is required at all levels, from primary through to senior cycle. My Department has set out the content of each of the programmes in the SPHE and RSE syllabuses and guidelines.
It is envisaged that the SPHE curriculum at primary level will undergo a review by the NCCA as part of the ongoing review of the curriculum. A review of the curriculum at senior cycle is also under way and the SPHE programme at that level will be considered. The reviews will include the views of all of the education partners, recent research outcomes, societal and cultural changes, and existing policies and teaching materials. SPHE and RSE form integral parts of the new well-being area of learning at junior cycle.