This policy aims at ensuring that a high-quality, comprehensive programme of Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) is delivered to the students of St Conleth’s College in a professional manner and with a view to the holistic development of the student.
The policy aims at delivering this as a Relationship and Sex Education module within the Social, Personlal and Health Education (SPHE) programme at Junior Cert Level and as a distinct and independent module within the scheduled timetable for Religious Education (RE) at Senior Cycle.
The policy has been developed over the years since 2006. The process included discussions with the Manager, the School Teaching Staff, the Parents’ Association and the Students’ Council.
- The policy will apply to all aspects of teaching and learning about relationships and sexuality within our school. Discussion about relationships and sexuality also takes place in classes other than SPHE/RSE e.g. Science, Biology, Religious Education, and in the contact between students and their Form Teacher. It is therefore important that all teachers are familiar with the RSE policy.
- The policy will apply to all school staff – teaching staff and non-teaching staff – to students, the Manager, parents/guardians, visiting speakers and external facilitators.
- Sexuality is a key element of healthy social and personal development. Young people are exposed to a wide variety of messages about sexuality and sexual activity. Schools, in consultation with parents/guardians, need to reflect on how to provide for the needs of their students.
- The Education Act http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1998/act/51/enacted/en/pdf requires that schools should promote the social and personal development of students and provide health education for them.
- Section 4 of the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools requires schools to have an agreed policy for RSE and a suitable RSE programme in place for all students at both junior and senior cycle. https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Rules-and-Programmes-for-Schools/
- Circulars M4/95 and M20/96 request schools to commence a process of RSE policy development. https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/Post-Primary-Circular-M04-95-Relationship-and-Sexuality-Education.pdf and https://www.education.ie/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars
- We also refer to the following circulars: RSE 0027/2000, SPHE and RSE Best Practice for Post-Primary Schools, 0023/2010 and 0037/2010 https://sphe.ie/downloads/Circulars/DES%20CIRCULAR-0023%20APRIL%202010.pdf and https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0037_2010.pdf
- We recognise that the effectiveness of an RSE programme is dependent on a collaborative policy process involving all stakeholders- the Manager, teachers, parents/guardians, and students.
Relationship of this policy to the characteristic spirit of St. Conleth’s
- St. Conleth’s College is committed to the care and development of each individual and to the creation of a safe, caring and happy environment. Our RSE policy acknowledges the significance of integrated and holistic human development which fosters in students an awareness of and a capacity for healthy and fulfilling human relationships.
- Our RSE policy reflects the values we promote in St Conleths as expressed in our Mission Statement including, for example, active listening, mutual respect, kindness and inclusivity.
- Our RSE policy reflects and respects the religious values expressed in our Mission Statement.
- The RSE policy recognises that spiritual, moral and ethical issues will arise in the teaching of RSE. The policy is intended as a guide to teachers in the treatment of these issues in accordance with the ethos of the school.
- It is noted that schools are required to deliver all aspects of the RSE curriculum, including those in relation to sexual identity, contraception, sexually transmitted infections etc.
- It is also noted that in providing RSE, teachers are not conveying their own personal views on sensitive issues but facilitating students in discussing a wide range of views in relation to topics within the RSE programme in a manner respectful of our school ethos.
The objectives of our RSE policy
- It will ensure clarity on how RSE is taught in the school.
- It will articulate the relationship of RSE to SPHE.
- It will articulate the aims of the RSE programme.
- It will clarify the rights, roles and responsibilities of all within the school community in relation to the RSE programme, with particular reference to school staff, students, parents/guardians and the Manager.
- It will ensure that teachers, parents/guardians and students understand how the teaching of RSE is linked to the school ethos.
- It will provide information on the practicalities of delivering the programme. It will offer students an opportunity to learn about relationships and sexuality in a safe and caring environment, fostering in them the capacity to think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way.
The goals of our policy
- It aims to help students to understand and develop healthy friendships.
- It will help them to have a better understanding of human sexuality and to have a positive attitude towards their own sexuality and that of others.
- It will help students to have an understanding of and respect for human reproduction.
- It will make students aware of diversity, heighten their sensitivity to others and foster attitudes of inclusivity.
A. Provision of Training and Staff Development.
- The school has appointed a staff member as Coordinator of SPHE, who is clear about what this role involves.
- Teachers are consulted prior to being timetabled for SPHE/RSE
- All teachers assigned to teach RSE will be offered training in this area.
- The school encourages and welcomes a gender balance among the teachers assigned to SPHE/RSE.
- All teachers of these subjects have access to the resource materials such as the TRUST manual, the online information available (the SPHE coordinator will guide teachers in the use of this material) SPHE text books and back up material related to these texts, etc.
B. Inclusion of Parents/Guardians
- Parents are the primary educators of their children and their role in education concerning relationships and sexuality is seen by the school as paramount.
- Parents are invited to participate in the process of drawing up the school policy on RSE. Representatives of the Parents Association will reflect the diversity of age and gender of our students – eg Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle.
- Ordinarily, parents will be informed of the RSE programme at the Information Meeting with each group of parents at the beginning of the school year, and by letter on enrolment. They may request to withdraw their child from the RSE programme/class, should they so wish. This is communicated in writing to the school Principal.
- Through the school website, parents are made aware of the content of the SPHE/RSE programmes and of the other school policies which relate to these subjects.
C. Ethical/Moral Considerations
While it is important to create an environment in SPHE/RSE in which students can discuss issues openly, teachers may not be able to answer all questions asked by students and will set appropriate limits. Students may ask questions which are not appropriate to a classroom setting. On these, and on all questions, teachers should use their professional judgement, be guided by the age of the students, the RSE curriculum and the RSE policy for the school. Reference should also be made to the “Ground Rules”, which are drawn up with the SPHE/RSE class at the beginning of each year.
While students should be encouraged not to disclose personal or private information in SPHE/RSE classes, there may be times when they do talk about personal issues. It is important that students are made aware of the limits of confidentiality from the beginning and that teachers do not give an unconditional guarantee of confidentiality. Confidentiality should be respected unless a teacher becomes aware that a child is at risk, in which case the appropriate action should be to notify the Designated Liaison Person, who will then follow the procedures outlined in the Child Protection Procedures and Guidelines for Post-Primary Schools.
However, if a student is not at risk but chooses to confide in a teacher, the following procedure applies: the meeting should take place in a room where the staff member and pupil are visible through a glass panelled door and /or with the door slightly ajar. It is also important that, should a student bring up personal or family issues, the teacher should refer the issue to the Principal, the Deputy Principal or Guidance Counsellor.
The RSE policy statement gives teachers a framework, related to morals and values within which the issue of sexual activity should be addressed. These are to be found within the RSE Programme and resources itself and as articulated in the earlier section on the ‘Relationship to the characteristic spirit of the school’. Teachers will give young people information on the age of consent which is 17 years of age for both males and females. The importance of Consent will be highlighted and explored in the programme.Teachers who become aware that a student is sexually active under the age of consent must bring this information to the Principal who will then inform the parents.
The RSE Curriculum Guidelines state that the subject of contraception will be covered within the Senior Cycle RSE programme. It may happen, depending on the perceived needs of Junior Cycle students, that contraception may be discussed earlier, using the material from the Junior Cycle resource Materials. Such a decision should only be made after discussion with the SPHE coordinator.
The post-primary RSE Curriculum Guidelines include the subject of sexual orientation. The school may decide the topic needs to be addressed before Senior Cycle, especially if homophobic bullying is an issue. This is consistent with the school’s Bullying Policy. The Equal Status Act, 2000 and the Equality Act, 2004 prohibit discrimination across nine grounds, including sexual orientation. Consideration needs to be given to the messages that are conveyed if the subject of homosexuality is not discussed in a clear and open way in schools. The teacher will endeavour to create a safe environment in the classroom within which such a discussion may take place.
Students should also be made aware that they too may need to make judgements regarding confidentiality when sensitive information indicating risk is disclosed to them by friends.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s):
Given that rates of STI transmission are increasing, it is important that the subject is addressed in school. While awareness of STI’s is one of the objectives of the Second Year SPHE/RSE syllabus, STI’s are mainly addressed in Senior Cycle.
D. Practical Issues
- RSE takes place in the context of SPHE which is time-tabled in all Junior Cycle classes.
- Provision for RSE at Senior Cycle is for Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Year pupils.
- Outside speakers may be invited to supplement the regular delivery of RSE to a class group. The SPHE coordinator will provide the visitor, well in advance of the visit, with a copy of this RSE policy. After gaining approval from the Principal for the visit, the organiser makes the visitor aware of the ethos of the school and the manner of delivery of the RSE programme.
- Children with special needs may need more help than others in coping with the physical and emotional aspects of growing up; they may also need more help in learning what sorts of behaviour are and are not acceptable. Therefore, provision for children with special needs in RSE class will be catered for with this in mind and in cooperation with the Learning Support teachers and the Care Team.
- Parents may wish to withdraw their children from the RSE programme. Parents will be provided with a copy of this policy following a request to do so. Parents do not have to give reasons for withdrawal of their child from RSE. However, we respectfully invite them to do so in person or by phone in order that we can resolve any queries or misunderstandings. Once a parent’s request to withdraw is made and accepted by the school, that request must be complied with until revoked by the parent.
Links to Other Policies
The following policies have been taken into consideration in the development of this policy: See School Web site:
- Child Protection Policy
- Anti-Bullying Policy
- Substance Use Policy
- SPHE policy
- Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is timetabled as part of the Junior Cycle core curriculum. SPHE provides students with opportunities to develop the skills and competencies to care for themselves and others and to make informed decisions about their health, personal lives and social development. This includes providing information on relationships and sexuality.
- The SPHE Senior Cycle syllabus currently being developed will incorporate Senior Cycle RSE; at present RSE is delivered at Senior Cycle Level as a distinct module within the RE programme.
- Aspects of RSE are delivered across the curriculum, through subjects such as Religious Education, Science, Biology and through Form Class contact. St Conleth’s College endeavours to ensure that all students receive a full and balanced RSE programme from First Year through to Sixth Year.
Implementation Arrangements, Roles and Responsibilities
- The Principal on behalf of the Manager will co-ordinate implementation of the RSE policy.
- Ongoing training is available for teachers to help them implement the RSE programme.
- Information regarding courses or training for parents may be offered and organised by the Parents’ Association in conjunction with the Manager and the Principal.
- Relevant RSE school resources will be sourced, stored and updated by the SPHE Coordinator.
Ratification and Communication
- This policy will be available to parents, teachers and the Manager and amended when consensus has been reached by all parties.
- The final agreed policy will be presented to the Manager to be ratified and then circulated to all parties involved.
- Parents/guardians will be informed of the RSE Policy, the teaching programme for RSE will be given to parents. It will also be available on the school website.
Implementation Date of This Revised Policy: September 2019.
Monitoring, Evaluating and Reviewing the implementation of the policy
- The policy will be reviewed and evaluated every three years under the direction of the Manager and the Principal.
- This process will be co-ordinated by the SPHE Coordinator in consultation with the wider school community.
- On-going review and evaluation will take cognisance of changing information, guidelines, legislation and feedback from parents/guardians, students, teachers and others.
- This policy will be revised as necessary in the light of such review and evaluation and within the framework of school planning.
The following indicators will be used to gauge the impact and effectiveness of the policy, at review.
- RSE is being successfully taught to all Junior Cycle Students through SPHE and to all Senior Cycle students (i.e. 4th, 5th and 6th year students) through a distinct RSE module which is part of the RE programme.
- Resource material is available to teachers.
- Appropriate in-service for teachers is available and relevant teachers are availing of it.
- Students, parents/guardians as well as all staff members are aware of the policy.
- Positive feedback is received from teachers, other school staff, students, parents/guardians and the Manager.
- The review and evaluation of the policy is guided by annual feedback from the SSE survey in preparation for the following year’s SIP.
Reviewed: September 2019.
Next date for review: September 2022.