After a turbulent and distressing week for many, Minister of Education Richard Bruton announced plans to introduce sexual consent classes to Irish schools. Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, the Minister discussed a major overhaul of the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) programme currently available in Irish schools.
Recording an interview with @TodaySOR about the major review of the relationships and sexuality curriculum which I'm announcing today. Last big review was in the late 1990s. Young people today face a range of different challenges. Tune in after 10am! pic.twitter.com/vY80ETK1sS
— Richard Bruton (@RichardbrutonTD) April 3, 2018
How the RSE programme will be developed, the materials needed and the involvement of parents will be all be examined under the review. 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.
Speaking on Today, Bruton insists the information provided to students will be age appropriate. Currently, RSE is taught at both primary and secondary level so changes to both programmes are likely. Almost half of Irish schools don't have a policy in place to teach students about sexuality, LGBTQ+ issues or sexual health. Bruton hopes the RSE classes will help students living through a social media age and will reflect Irish life, inform students at all levels to prepare them for the world, provide "access to impartial and factual information" and discuss how to "form relationships".
Last year the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th amendment found schools were failing to educate young people on areas such as contraception and sexual health: "Improvements should be made in sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent, in primary and post-primary schools, colleges, youth clubs and other organisations involved in education and interactions with young people."