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Consent to be taught in schools as part of new relationship and sexuality education

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Education Minister Norma Foley

Education Minister Norma Foley

Education Minister Norma Foley

Consent is set to be taught in schools as part of updated relationships and sexuality education (RSE).

Education Minister Norma Foley has said that issues such as consent need to be taught “within a wider context of particular issues” following a review of RSE by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

This may include “guidance materials” for teachers on the issue of consent, according to the minister.

“Important issues such as consent need to be taught within a wider context of
particular issues,”
Ms Foley said.

“It is the view of the NCCA that guidance materials and professional development for teachers are needed to create this wider understanding of what is involved.”

She said that the updated RSE will be rolled out from all schools from September 2023, which will include updated training for teachers.

“It is planned the new specification will be rolled out to all schools from September 2023 to facilitate CPD [continuing professional development],” she said in a parliamentary answer to Fine Gael TD
Jennifer Carroll MacNeill
earlier this month.

In 2018, the education minister Richard Bruton asked the NCCA to review RSE in schools to ensure that it was “fit for purpose”.

As part of the review, the council was asked especially to look at specific issues, including consent and “what it means”.

“Other areas looked at included, but were not limited to: developments in relation to contraception; healthy, positive, sexual expression and relationships; safe use of the internet; the role of school ethos; and LGBTQ+ matters,” the minister said.

However, Ms Foley said that the junior cycle Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum will be updated first, followed by
the revamping of the senior cycle and primary school curricula.

It is unclear at what stage consent will be taught.

Ms Carroll MacNeill said that “a version of” consent should be taught in primary schools.

She also raised concerns that it is being rolled out in the junior cycle and not across all cycles.

“There is a need for an age-appropriate sex education from the earliest ages in school,” she said.

“Even as a parent, I know that you can teach boundaries, respecting other people and what ‘no’ means, in a way that is not referenced as sexual education of any kind.

“Sexual education now is taught now about ‘What not to do’, how not to get pregnant or how not to get an STI,” she added.

“The curriculum needs to really reflect where young people really are and make sure that they’re all getting the same education,” the Dún Laoghaire TD said.

The “immediate focus” of updating SPHE and RSE in schools is the creation of an online toolkit, which will
support “effective teaching and learning of SPHE/RSE linked to the current curriculum”, according to the minister.

“This work is progressing well and sections of the toolkit have been published already, with further sections being published on an ongoing basis,” Ms Foley added.


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