Sex education 'must be taught in senior cycle'
THE Department of Education will write to every secondary school in the country to insist sex education be taught to Leaving Certificate students.
This follows a study which shows that three-quarters of students indicated they had no relationships and sexuality Education (RSE) classes in senior cycle in the past year.
The Department of Education and Skills said the survey revealed "disturbingly low levels" of the classes being taught.
A department spokeswoman said that all schools were required to implement an RSE programme in senior cycle. Schools and boards of management would be contacted by letter and reminded of their obligation, she added.
The survey was conducted by teenagers from the Dail na nOg Council (Ireland's Youth Parliament), with the help of a professional researcher.
A total of 220 transition year, fifth- and sixth-year students from 94 schools took part in the RSE survey which shows that:
- A total of 74pc of students had no RSE classes in 2009.
- A total of 91pc of students felt it was important or very important to learn RSE in school.
- The most-emphasised theme in the RSE syllabus was 'healthy relationships'.
- The least-emphasised theme was 'understanding sexual orientation'.
- A total of 39pc said that RSE classes were not helpful in the way they were being taught.
The Dail na nOg study appears to contradict a separate survey of 385 schools undertaken by the department in 2009, which showed that two-thirds of schools were providing an RSE programme in Leaving Certificate first year and 60pc were implementing the programme in year two.
Dail na nOg council spokesperson Sheelan Yousefizadeh said studies showing a higher implementation rate for RSE were at odds with the experience of young people. This was why Dail na nOg decided to carry out its own research, she added.
She said that where it was provided, RSE was delivered in many cases through guest speakers with medical backgrounds or from crisis pregnancy agencies, rape crisis centres and religious groups. She said the response to the broader social, personal and health education curriculum was very encouraging, with 46pc of students saying that it helped develop their self-respect and self-confidence and 56pc agreeing that it helped them make good decisions.
The report entitled 'Life skills matter -- not just points' was launched by Children's Minister Barry Andrews. The Teachers' Union of Ireland said these programmes enabled students to build up a base of knowledge, skills and values that were key to making the transition to adulthood and providing them with the scaffolding to make responsible and mature decision about their lives.