I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 169 together.
Access to sexual and health education is an important right for students. Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and in post-primary Junior Cycle. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is required at all levels, from primary through to Senior Cycle.
All schools are required to have an RSE policy that is developed in consultation with the school community, including school management, parents, teachers and students as appropriate. The school’s programme for Relationship and Sexuality Education is developed and taught in the context of the school’s RSE policy. Schools are required to teach all aspects of the RSE programme, including family planning and sexual orientation. It is important to note that the ethos of the school should never preclude learners from acquiring the knowledge about the issues, but ethos may influence how that content is treated.
My Department continues to work closely with the NCCA to best give effect to the commitment in the Programme for Government to develop inclusive and age-appropriate RSE and SPHE curricula across primary and post-primary levels, including an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships. 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 December 2019. Arising from recommendations in that report the NCCA has been publishing online learning resources to support teaching and learning linked to the current SPHE/RSE curriculum in schools. The resources in this online toolkit include guidance on how to create a more inclusive classroom. As well as these updated online learning resources the NCCA has recently began work on draft Junior Cycle SPHE specifications, with a draft of the updated specification planned to be available for consultation in early 2022. This will be followed by the redevelopment of the Senior Cycle and Primary curricula.
My Department continues to work closely with the NCCA to determine the approach to best give effect to the commitment regarding SPHE and RSE in the Programme for Government. Should any legislative changes be required in this context I am committed to making such changes.