A Fine Gael MP has questioned whether plans to update sex education in primary schools by 2025 are being deliberately ‘slowed down’.
A review of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) at primary and secondary levels in 2019 concluded that the curriculum needs to be updated and address issues such as consent and LGBTQ+ issues.
Education Minister Norma Foley confirmed last month that the updated CSR curriculum will be ready for junior level from 2023, senior level in 2024 and primary level in 2025.
On Sunday, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked why the reforms couldn’t happen sooner and wondered if they were ‘slowed down’.
“One of the reasons this is so important is that we know educational interventions can make a huge difference in attitudes,” she said.
“We can either drop our children off at school and ask ourselves which of them, in 20 years, will be the abusers and which will be the abused, like all the generations before them. We can ask ourselves what we can do with positive and constructive way that gives their generation a real chance to achieve a different set of attitudes and norms around equality, consent and inclusion.
However, Ms Foley said the CSR curriculum at primary level is being reviewed and revamped in line with a broader and long-running review of the whole primary school curriculum.
She said it was “right” that this work to update the curriculum should be subject to consultation with pupils, parents and society at large.
Setting the timetable for reform, Ms Foley recently said she was due to receive a framework document setting out the basis on which curriculum specifications for a range of subjects will be developed at primary level later this year.
In the meantime, she said work on the program area for wellbeing – which includes CSR – should officially be in September this year with a draft ready for public consultation in late 2023 or early 2024.
Work on the updated curriculum is expected to be completed in early 2025 and submitted to the Minister for approval.
Meanwhile, the current curriculum at the primary level — in place since 1999 — strives to foster understanding and appreciation for all children.
“Through the objectives of the program, children are helped to develop self-confidence and a positive sense of self, and to appreciate and respect the diversity that exists in society and to respect and appreciate human and cultural diversity,” a- she said, in response to a recent parliamentary question.
“To this end, the program seeks to foster in the child a sense of care and respect for themselves and others and an appreciation for the dignity of every human being.”
She said the program also emphasizes using inclusive and respectful language to promote a positive school climate where all children are valued, cared for and respected.
The updated CSR curriculum at primary and secondary levels will aim to address issues in an “age-sensitive and age-appropriate way” such as the effects of the internet and social media on relationships, identity and life. self-esteem, consent and its relevance to all relationships, LGBTQ+ issues, healthy positive sex expression and the evolution of contraception.