Ministers McHugh and Mitchell O’Connor welcome final report of National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (Wednesday 11 December 2019) confirmed the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has completed its review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE).

The report was compiled by the NCCA following 18 months of research and consultation, including with young people, parents, teachers, focus groups, organisations, Comhairlí na nÓg and a general public consultation.

The NCCA was asked to look at a number of specific issues in respect of RSE and the curriculum in primary and post primary schools.

Among the issues being considered were the importance of consent and what it means, along with developments in relation to contraception and at healthy, positive, sexual expression and relationships, safe use of the internet, social media and the effect that these have on relationships and self-esteem, and LGBTQ+ matters.

Minister McHugh said: “I want to thank the NCCA for the professional, thorough and transparent manner in which the review of Relationships and Sexuality Education has been carried out.

“RSE is a vital and sensitive area of education. A fundamental tenet of our education system is that we focus on the whole person. And one of the most important responsibilities we have to our young people is preparing them for life and ensuring that they are safe, respectful of each other and themselves and understand the importance of healthy relationships.

“While the NCCA report provides us with a roadmap for the future direction of RSE, no final decisions have been made. And it is also important to assure mothers, fathers and guardians, teachers and students that there will be further public consultation before we get to the point of finalising changes to RSE curriculum.

“Our entire focus is on preparing young people for adult life, on emphasising the importance of respect, on understanding consent and helping young people to develop and mature in a positive light.”

Minister McHugh will give the NCCA report full consideration before confirming any further actions on RSE reform. The Minister will bring his recommendations to Cabinet.

The Minister added: “Whatever future actions are decided, the paramount importance is that RSE is taught in a manner that is appropriate for a child’s age and development, with sensitivity to the diversity of needs and readiness.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “I also welcome the publication of this report. It is imperative that RSE is taught in an age-appropriate manner throughout the education cycle of every pupil.

“In April I launched the Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions: Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions.

“As the Minister responsible for Higher Education, I was responding to the need for clear guidelines on our campuses. It goes without saying all our institutions of learning, whether they be primary or post-primary schools or higher education institutions, should always be places of respect and inclusion.

“At third level, institutions have a duty of care to their students and staff, and a responsibility to foster a campus culture that is clear in the condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours. It is unthinkable that students arrive in a higher education environment and are only then learning about consent and sexual relationships. Education is not only concerned with the pursuit of academic excellence. It must also be about creating a positive student experience empowering individuals to foster a culture of respect, dignity and integrity.”

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