Written Answers - School Curriculum

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 711 No. 3

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  34.  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh  Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the steps that are being taken to ensure that the relationships and sexuality education curriculum is rolled out in full to all leaving certificate students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23814/10]

Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory programme for junior cycle since September 2003. In addition, all schools are required to have an RSE programme at senior cycle.

Schools are currently supported in the implementation of RSE by the SPHE and RSE Support Services which are provided in collaboration with the health sector. The supports available to schools include guidelines on policy development, curricula and teacher guidelines, comprehensive resource manuals, and teacher training.

In 2008 the report “RSE in the context of SPHE : An assessment of the Challenges to the Full Implementation of the Programme in Post-primary Schools” published jointly by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and my Department was launched. The report highlighted widespread support for both the broad principles and the content of the SPHE and RSE programme from teachers, parents and health professionals and strong levels of interest and support from parents and students as to the importance of RSE in schools. The report also demonstrated increasing levels of implementation compared with earlier studies, with 90% of schools teaching RSE at some level. However, levels of implementation significantly reduced in senior cycle, with 43% and 48% of schools indicating that RSE was not taught in Leaving Certificate Year 1 and Leaving Certificate Year 2 respectively.

The report also indicated that some topics such as contraception, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation were inconsistently treated in schools.

Following this, my Department issued a circular to all schools reminding them of the obligation to provide SPHE in all classes each year at junior cycle and to provide an RSE programme in senior cycle, and re-stating the supports and resources available for this.

A further Lifeskills Survey was issued to all schools for completion in 2009 seeking information on various aspects of social personal and health education. To date, the responses have been completed by 459 schools and indicate that RSE is being implemented in 85-87% of schools in junior cycle, and in 53-59% of schools in senior cycle. In the meantime, lesson plans linked to a DVD resource on contraception, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation, have been developed for schools in collaboration with the Health Services Execu[692]tive and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency to ensure consistency of treatment of these issues within RSE.

My Department plans to issue a further reminder to all schools on this issue in September. Evaluation of Social Personal and Health Education and RSE in schools by my Department’s Inspectorate has also been strengthened, both through subject inspections and whole school evaluation.

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