Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has today reiterated calls for a uniform, comprehensive and inclusive sexual education policy in schools.
His comments come after a recent report that the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has developed a sexual education resource for Catholic primary schools.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Reform of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools is long overdue.
“We know that there are significant variations in the content and scope of RSE across schools. In many schools, the RSE programme is completely inadequate and is not meeting the needs of young people.
“This is particularly the case for young people within the LGBTQI+ community, given the lack of inclusion in the current Department of Education model, let alone in courses that have been compiled by religious organisations.
“No child should feel that their identity, their sexuality or their family circumstance is lesser, because they are not included in the sexual education programme as prescribed by their school, the ethos of that school or by their teacher. Legislative reform is the only way to ensure that a uniform, comprehensive and inclusive sexual education is undertaken in all schools.
“I welcome that the NCCA is preparing a new RSE syllabus. I hope that this will improve the quality of sexual education here. However, I am concerned that this will not address the fact that religious organisations will still have a significant input in the sexual education programme in many schools.
“For too long now the characteristic spirit clause in the Education Act 1998, introduced by Fianna Fáil, has meant that ethos-based schools are free to leave out certain aspects of the curriculum where they believe these do not match the ‘characteristic spirit’ of the school.
“Due in large part to outdated legislation, schools are picking and choosing parts of the sexual education curriculum to deliver to their students.
“This, in turn, means that many of the key issues surrounding safe sex, contraceptives and crisis pregnancies are often barely touched upon, or left out entirely.
“Young people want to be fully informed and want to know how to be safe in any relationships they have or may have. We must trust young people enough to properly equip them with the skills necessary to feel confident discussing these matters. School is where this process must begin.”