Minister Bruton starts major update of Relationships and Sexuality Education

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, today (Tuesday 3rd April) announced a major review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools. The review will cover both the content of the RSE curriculum and support materials, as well as the delivery of the curriculum to students.

The Minister stated that some elements of the current RSE curriculum were twenty years old and that it was now time to carry out a major review of the curriculum to ensure that it is fit for purpose and meets the needs of young people today in modern Ireland. 

In relation to the content of the curriculum, the Minister has today written to the National Council on Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to ask that they specifically consider a number of areas in conducting its evaluation, in particular. These include:

The Minister has also asked the NCCA to examine the experience and reality of RSE as delivered in schools. This will provide an opportunity for teachers, students, principals and parents to be consulted about RSE in their particular contexts:

These reviews by the NCCA will inform the ongoing overall work being carried out by the NCCA to reform the primary and senior cycle curriculum.

The Department of Education and Skills will collaborate with the Department of Health and the HSE in the development of enhanced resources to assist the teaching of RSE in schools, and of research on RSE being conducted in schools by the HSE and the Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

Emphasising the important role played by parents in relation to RSE the Minister also said that there needs to be more effective communication between schools and parents regarding the teaching of RSE in schools. This follows a recommendation in the Chief Inspector’s Report 2013 – 2016. The Minister has said that information regarding the teaching of RSE in schools should be reflected in the Parents and Students Charter, which each school will be required to publish and operate once the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016 is enacted later this year.

Speaking ahead of the ASTI annual Conference, Minister Bruton said: “Today I am announcing a review of Relationships and Sexuality Education in schools. It is important that we review this area of learning to make sure that we are adequately providing information to students regarding sexuality and relationships through the curriculum. I have asked the NCCA to consider the experience and reality of RSE as delivered in schools, the supports and professional development opportunities provided for teachers.  

“The RSE curriculum fulfils an important function. Every student has a right to access information about sexual health, relationships and sexuality, and this must be delivered in a factual manner in every school. This review will help to inform decisions regarding the content of the curriculum and how it is delivered. I want to ensure that the RSE curriculum meets the needs of young people today, who face a range of different issues to those faced by young people in the late 1990s.

“This review will also look at the effectiveness of the continuing professional development opportunities which are currently provided to RSE teachers. It is essential for the curriculum to be delivered by teachers who are fully supported and who feel comfortable teaching the curriculum and talking to their students about sexuality and relationships.”

“Through the Parent and Student Charter schools will have to set information for parents regarding RSE. Better communication between parents and schools is a key commitment in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe. Better communication on RSE was a key recommendation in the Chief Inspector’s Report which was published earlier this year.

“In reviewing how RSE is provided in our schools, the views of all of the education partners, recent research outcomes, societal and cultural changes, and existing policies and teaching materials will be considered.”