The Department of Education has ordered a review of Relationships and Sexuality Education in schools.
The review will cover both the content of the curriculum and well as its delivery in schools.
The decision follows an “ancillary” recommendation by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, which called for a “thorough review of sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent”.
The Citizens’ Assembly on the Eighth Amendment also recommended improvements in the way RSE was delivered in schools.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to consider a number of areas in conducting its evaluation, including “healthy, positive sexual expression, safe use of the internet, and LGBTQ+ matters”.
The minister has also asked the NCCA to examine the experience and reality of RSE as delivered in schools.
Members of the Oireachtas committee expressed concern last December when Department of Education officials told them that while RSE was mandatory in schools, the ethos of the school could influence how the course content is delivered.
Speaking at a committee session dedicated to the issue, a Department of Education official explained that while family planning, sexual orientation, and sexually transmitted infections had to be explored at second-level, all this “could and should” take place “within the ethos and value system of the school”.
The majority of second-level schools in Ireland have a Catholic ethos, which forbids sex outside of marriage, artificial contraception, and gay sex.
In a statement announcing a review of the curriculum and its delivery, Minister Bruton said there needed to be more effective communication between schools and parents regarding the teaching of RSE in schools.
Social, Personal and Health Education or SPHE is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and in the junior cycle.
It includes a mandatory Relationships and Sexuality Education. The Department of Education says that RSE is required at all levels, from primary through to senior cycle.