Preface (Establish a committee to develop the
Step One: Study relevant documents
Step Two: Review current provision of SPHE/RSE
Step Three: Draft the policy statement
Step Four: Publicise/amend and finalise the draft
Step Five: Circulate the RSE policy statement
Step Six: Initiate the RSE programme
Preface (Establish a committee to develop the policy)
The purpose of this booklet is to provide
you with guidelines for the development of Relationships and Sexuality
Education (RSE) policy in your school.These guidelines promote a
partnership approach among parents, teachers and school authorities. Each
group will be invited to nominate representatives to a committee which will
draft a policy statement. Having engaged in consultation with their various
groups, the committee members will finalise the policy statement and submit
it for approval to the school authorities.The final statement will be
disseminated among the school community. Such an approach will ensure
clarity and consensus on how RSE will be taught in the individual
school.The school's RSE programme will be drawn up by the school staff and
will be based on the policy statement and the RSE curriculum and guidelines
developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
Classroom materials will be available to teachers as a resource during this
This folder has been assembled in
consultation with the partners in education, as follows:
- The Department of Education
- The Department of Health
- The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
- The National Parents' Council - Primary
- The National Parents' Council - Post-Primary
- The Catholic Primary School Managers Association
- The Church of Ireland Board of Education
- The Joint Managerial Body for Secondary Schools
- Educate Together
- The Irish National Teachers' Organisation
- The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland
- The Teachers' Union of Ireland
- The Association of Community and Comprehensive
- The Irish Vocational Educational Association
and Sexuality Education
Relationships and Sexuality Education
(RSE) is a lifelong process of acquiring knowledge and understanding and of
developing attitudes,beliefs and values about sexual identity,relationships
and intimacy.This education is delivered consciously and unconsciously by
parents, teachers, peers, adults and the media.
In Irish schools, RSE will provide
structured opportunities for pupils to acquire a knowledge and
understanding of human relationships and sexuality through processes which
will enable them to form values and establish behaviours within a moral,
spiritual and social framework.
This approach gives opportunities to
children and young people to learn about relationships and sexuality in
ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible
At primary level, RSE aims to help children learn, at home and in school,
about their own development and about their friendships and relationships
with others.This work will be based on developing a good self-image,
promoting respect for themselves and for others, and providing them with
At post-primary level, this means building
on the primary programme and providing young people with information and
skills to critically evaluate the wide range of information, opinions,
attitudes and values offered today, and so make positive, responsible
choices about themselves and the way they live their lives.
In the school setting, RSE will be taught in the context of Social,
Personal and Health Education.
Personal and Health Education
Social, Personal and Health Education
(SPHE) contributes to developing the work of the school in promoting the
health and well-being of children and young people.This happens in the
context of their emotional,moral, social and spiritual growth,as well as
their intellectual,physical,political,religious and creative development.A
supportive school climate, where the needs and well-being of all members of
the school community are considered, is essential to the best possible
provision for SPHE.
Social, Personal and Health Education
looks at issues such as relationships at home and in school, building
self-esteem, and learning skills of communication, decision-making and
expressing feelings in an appropriate way. It also includes giving clear
information on a range of topics, including healthy eating, alcohol, drugs,
human growth and development, safety and social responsibility, and
and sexuality education - A Partnership between Home and School - The
guidelines for policy development in this booklet are laid out is a series
1 and 2
are aimed at assisting you to clarify what is contained in the NCCA
curriculum and guidelines and other documents, and what is already
happening in your school
contains the framework for the policy statement
4 to 6
provide guidance on what to do after the initial policy statement has been
Step 1: Study relevant documents
Over the past two years your school has
received a number of relevant documents on RSE.These include:
The Report of the Expert Advisory Group on
Relationships and Sexuality Education
This report was distributed to boards of
management school authorities in January 1995 and has become known as the
'Blue Book'.The report formed the basis on which RSE is being introduced
into Irish schools. Recommended reading: pages 6-8 and 16.
of Education Circulars
2/95 to Primary and M4/95 to Post-Primary Schools in January
1995 explain the rationale for the introduction of RSE into schools and the
manner in which the implementation process is to be managed.
9/96 to Primary Schools and M20/96 to Post-Primary Schools summarise
progress to date and outline plans for inservice teacher training.
included in this folder:
Relationships and Sexuality Education Policy
Guidelines - This
document provides guidelines for the development of RSE policy and promotes
a partnership between home and school.
NCCA Curriculum and Guidelines for Primary Schools/Infants to Sixth - Pages 5, 7-9 and 49-54 will be particularly
relevant for you in your policy-making role.You may also be interested in
content (pages 13-46) and methodology (pages 55-68) or
NCCA Curriculum and Guidelines for Post-Primary Schools - Pages 7-11 and 33-34 will be of particular
Parents' Information Booklet, 'Going Forward
Together' - This
booklet provides information on RSE for parents. It explains what and how
children and young people may be taught and also answers commonly asked
questions. It highlights how home and school together can support
children's learning and it invites and encourages parents to become
Step 2: Review current provision of SPHE/RSE
The aim in drawing up Relationships and
Sexuality Education policy is to indicate how RSE will be implemented in
the school.At the outset,the policy will outline what provision is being
made for RSE and SPHE in your school. Most schools are engaged in some
relevant activities and this section is intended to provide a summary of
what is already being provided.
It should be possible to gather the
information from the policy committee members' own knowledge, experience
and observation of the work of the school.Additional information may have
to be sought from parents, teachers or the school authorities through their
representatives on the committee.
Your committee should gather information
on how SPHE/RSE is already being made available to children through the
formal and informal activities of the school.
Under formal provision, your school may be
teaching SPHE/RSE through:
Examples include initiatives developed by
the Departments of Education and of Health - the Stay Safe and the
Substance Abuse Prevention Programmes.
Elements of SPHE and/or RSE are being approached during such subjects as
Biology; Civic, Social and Political Education; Guidance and Counselling;
Home Economics; Physical Education; Religious Education; Science; Social
and Environmental Studies, or during school-developed Social, Personal and
Health Education programmes.
Topics or projects which have an SPHE and/or an RSE component may have been
developed as part of the Transition Year or Leaving Certificate Applied
programmes in post-primary schools.At primary level,there are many local
initiatives in place such as self-esteem programmes.
Regarding the above programmes, you might
consider the following questions:
- What age pupils are catered for?
- How are the programmes organised?
- Who is responsible for their delivery?
- What time is allocated to them?
- What training and support is available for
- Have parents been involved? If so, how?
- How are such programmes reviewed and evaluated?
You should also assess if SPHE and/or RSE
are offered to individual pupils:
- at primary level, through class teachers, teacher
counsellors and the psychological service
- at post-primary level, through counsellors,
chaplains, career guidance teachers, year-heads and pastoral care
You should look at the level of
home-school involvement, formal and informal, and list any parent education
initiatives, such as, for example, a drugs awareness programme.
Your school may also support SPHE/RSE
informally through creating a supportive school climate where the aims of
the programmes are modelled. In looking at your school, you may wish to
examine the following questions:
- Do people feel valued?
- Is self-esteem fostered?
- Is there evidence of respect, tolerance and
- Is a sense of responsibility fostered?
- Are high standards and expectations promoted?
- Is there open communication?
- Is effort recognised and rewarded?
- Are uniqueness and difference valued?
- Is conflict handled constructively?
- Are initiative and creativity encouraged?
- Are social, moral and civic values promoted?
- Is attention paid to the well-being of all members
of the school community?
Step 3: Draft the policy statement
Your school policy statement could be
drawn up under the following headings:
Name, address, phone number, category and enrolment numbers.
Our School Philosophy
The way you regard the range of needs of
your children, parents and teachers within the school community
defines your school philosophy, also known as the school's ethos or
Every school is different. A school's
unique character is created by its pupils, parents, staff and management
and their shared concerns and expectations; its denomination or ethos; its
location, whether urban, suburban, provincial or rural; and its size. Out
of this unique and ever-changing mix is forged the characteristic spirit of
the individual school.
Equally, the manner in which you consider
RSE policy will reflect your school's characteristic spirit. When drawing
up RSE policy, it may be helpful to be aware that while the NCCA curriculum
and guidelines provide the proposed content of programmes, you have
discretion in deciding how your school's characteristic spirit will inform
the teaching of a programme.
C Definition Of RSE
You could review the definitions in the
NCCA curriculum and guidelines and the parents' booklet 'Going Forward Together' and decide on
the statement which best provides a working definition for you.
Relationship Of RSE To SPHE
The material in the accompanying
documentation which outlines how RSE relates to SPHE will provide you with
information for discussion.You will need to state why it is important, in
your school, to teach RSE in the context of SPHE.
What The School Currently Provides
This section will be based on your
assessment of existing provision, both formal and informal (Step 2). It
would be helpful for readers if you name a number of programmes, and cite a
few examples of SPHE/RSE in action in your school, rather than confining
yourself to statements which may be vague or too general.
The Aims Of Our RSE Programme
You will find guidance for this section in
the 'Blue Book', page 17, and in the NCCA curriculum and guidelines for
primary schools on page 9 and for post-primary schools on page 10.
For The Management And Organisation Of RSE In Our School
The NCCA RSE curriculum and guidelines
outline the content and methodology to be used in the teaching of RSE
programmes. It is the task of your policy committee to discuss, in
consultation with the school community, how the NCCA curriculum and
guidelines are to be implemented in your school. In this context, issues
such as confidentiality, parents' rights and responsibilities, including
the withdrawal of pupils, visiting speakers, sensitive issues, class
groupings and multi-class situations may arise. Arrangements regarding the
teaching of the programme and the deployment of staff will be made by the
Principal. The policy development process allows for issues of concern to
each of the participating groups to be raised, discussed and decided upon.
In this way, there will be clarity and consensus among all members of your
school community on how such issues are to be approached in your school,
and the school staff, in particular, will be guided in approaching these
issues when drawing up the school's programme.
By its nature, RSE explores issues which
give rise to differing views and sensitivities. Schools, depending on their
characteristic spirit, may differ from each other in the way in which they
wish to deal with issues such as describing sexual intercourse, teenage
pregnancies, separation and divorce. It will fall to your RSE policy
committee, again with the fullest co-operation possible within the school
community, to decide how you wish to deal with such issues in RSE.
For Ongoing Support, Development And Review
It would be important that your policy
statement includes provision to support teachers, pupils, parents and board
members involved in RSE at policy and programme level.This could include
making a commitment to:
- ensure access to in-career development
opportunities for teachers and the policy committee
- support efforts of parents to provide educational
opportunities for other parents
- provide relevant RSE school resources.
The draft policy statement should spell
out how the policy and programme will be reviewed by the partners. It could
also state in writing that any amendments necessary as a result of such
review will be undertaken.
Step 4: Publicise/amend and finalise the draft policy
When the draft policy statement has been
drawn up, the policy committee will need to take steps to ensure that it
becomes known among the school community.The following processes are
- Refer the draft policy statement to the school
authorities for approval and dissemination among parents and
- Consult parents' views on the draft policy
statement.This could be done formally through general or class-based
meetings for parents; more informally through meeting parent
representatives on the board of management, meeting parents'
association representatives, through sending a copy of the draft
policy home and inviting responses, through home-school-community
liaison teachers, or by offering individual parents the opportunity to
respond in person, in writing or by means of a questionnaire.
- Consult teachers' views on the draft policy
statement.This could be done by general meetings involving all
teachers, with additional smaller meetings for teachers most closely
involved with teaching RSE.
- Seek opportunities to involve pupils,as
appropriate.This may include meetings with year-heads or class tutors,
the student council or school prefects and initiating age-appropriate
classroom discussion at primary and post-primary levels.
- Discuss all comments, opinions and suggestions
received, and amend the draft policy statement as appropriate.
- Present the amended draft policy statement to the
school authorities for discussion and approval.
Before completion, your amended policy
statement should explain how this statement was drawn up. This would
include details on the formation and membership of the RSE policy
committee; meetings held; people consulted; how the draft was circulated to
parents, teachers and the school authorities; some sense of the amendments
received; and how the document was reviewed and presented for approved to
the school authorities.
Step 5: Circulate the RSE policy statement
When the school authorities approve the
draft document, it becomes the school Relationships and Sexuality Education
Policy statement, and should be circulated among parents and teachers.
Step 6: Initiate the RSE programme
Your RSE programme will be drawn up by
school staff in line with the NCCA curriculum and guidelines and your own
Before they are implemented, programmes
should be available in the school for parents who wish to see them.