Update on NCCA’s work arising from the Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools
The NCCA has established two development groups, one for primary and one for post-primary, to oversee development work in this area. Both began meeting in October 2020. The key areas of work are summarised below.
Interim Guidance: The immediate focus of work for the development groups is to develop materials that will be included in interim guidance for teaching SPHE/RSE. The guidance will support teachers in their engagement with the current curriculum in a confident and holistic manner. This interim guidance has been made available in the form of an online toolkit here.
Resources: The NCCA has worked collaboratively with the teacher professional development support services and other relevant groups in completing an audit of current teaching and learning resources relevant to SPHE/RSE. Building on this work, a comprehensive resource list has been compiled which has been published as part of the online toolkit for SPHE/RSE. This provides a single, online access point for up-to-date resources. To visit click here.
Curriculum development: The Report recommends the development of a single, integrated curriculum for RSE and SPHE spanning both primary and post-primary education, with adequate time to teach it. Work on new specifications for SPHE/RSE will commence in the NCCA in late 2021-2022, beginning with a focus on junior cycle. As the curriculum work develops there will be opportunities for engagement with all the key stakeholders as well as further processes of public consultation before any new curriculum specifications are finalised.
A review of the junior cycle SPHE short course is underway. We're currently inviting teachers and students who have experienced this course to share their views via an online survey and interviews. The feedback from this review will inform the work of the SPHE/RSE Development Group in drafting an updated junior cycle SPHE specification. This draft will be available for public consultation at the end of the year.
Timeline of key actions
Development Groups meeting – Oct 2020 ongoing
Publication of interim guidance – Jan 2021 – Dec 2021
Redevelopment of SPHE/RSE curriculum – 2021-2022 Junior Cycle, 2023 Senior Cycle and Primary - Consultations on draft revised curriculum – Ongoing
At the request of the Minister of Education, the NCCA undertook a major review of RSE in primary and post-primary schools. The review began in June 2018. The review included an examination of the RSE curriculum, the approach to teaching and learning, supports needed, and ways to improve the experience of RSE for students.
Participation in the review was considerable, demonstrating the level of interest people have in this aspect of education. The review involved students, parents, teachers, school leaders, researchers and organisations, with a view to gaining a full appreciation of the nature of young peoples’ needs and experience of RSE. The review was conducted in two phases.
The first phase took place between June 2018 and March 2019. There was widespread participation in this phase of the consultation. On foot of extensive consultation, the NCCA produced a Draft Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Primary and Post-Primary Schools and began a second phase of consultation from July to October 2019. This consultation was based on proposals in the draft Report which included; the proposed advice for the future approach to RSE, suggestions regarding future curriculum developments, the conditions needed for effective RSE and other considerations. Feedback was facilitated through an online survey, written submissions and a consultative symposium.
Report on the Review of RSE
To support participants who wished to contribute to the review, a research paper has been developed by Prof. Mark Morgan, Dr Seline Keating and Dr Bernie Collins, Dublin City University. The paper provides a historical context for the review, an overview of contemporary approaches to RSE, as well as insights into the experience of teachers, parents and of course students.
The NCCA conducted focus group meetings with primary and post primary students across 23 schools. Their views are contained in the draft Report, in chapter 2, p. 14-25. In addition, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) organised a one-day consultation event with 77 representatives from Comhairlí na nÓg. Overview of Consultation with Comhairle na nÓg
Written submissions are an important part of the NCCA’s consultation process.
Now that the report on the review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) has been published, what’s the next steps?
Arising from the publication of the Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools two Development Groups, one primary and one post-primary, have been formed. The immediate focus of these groups is to support the development of interim guidance to support the teaching of SPHE/RSE in both primary and post-primary classrooms.
In addition, the NCCA is working to address some of the immediate needs identified through the review namely;
What’s currently being taught in Irish primary and post-primary schools in RSE?
Ireland currently has a subject called Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is a key part of this. RSE has been a compulsory part of the primary and post-primary curriculum since the late 1990s. To view the current SPHE/RSE curricula please click on the relevant link below.
Post-primary – short course
Post-primary – SPHE framework
Has the NCCA developed an updated RSE curriculum for primary and post-primary schools?
No, there has been no new curriculum developed. The NCCA adopts a partnership approach to curriculum development. Beginning in 2021 an updated SPHE/RSE curriculum will be developed together with stakeholders from across education. For more information on the stakeholder's involved visit: https://www.ncca.ie/en/about/council-2019-2022.
Who will have a say in the development of an updated curriculum?
When an updated draft curriculum for SPHE/RSE is developed it will go through the normal NCCA curriculum development structures which include representatives from all the key education stakeholders. These include representatives from Parent groups, Teacher Unions, School Management bodies, Department of Education and those with relevant expertise.
During the development of an updated draft SPHE/RSE curriculum, there will be further consultation with stakeholders and the public and the NCCA will publicise this via this website and through other media.
How can parents be involved in the development process?
Parents are the primary educators of their children and important partners in the education process that happens within schools. The NCCA will continue to involve parents in conversations and consultation so that they can share their views as developments within SPHE/RSE continue. This will be facilitated in a variety of ways – through working with representative groups, through focus group and advisory group meetings and through further public consultation which will be publicised via the NCCA websites and social media channels and through other media.
What topics will be taught and at what age will these be taught?
The list of topics and when they are taught will be discussed and decided through regular NCCA processes. This involves Development Groups which include teachers, Department of Education and Skills’ inspectors and experts in the field of SPHE/RSE. The Development Group works together to develop the curriculum and in the case of SPHE/RSE decide on the list of topics and when they are to be taught. Amongst the guiding principles for all discussions will be an awareness that topics should be taught in an age-appropriate, sensitive and incremental manner. For more information on the development processes of NCCA visit https://www.ncca.ie/en/about/boards-and-development-groups.
Will there be further opportunities to share my views in relation to RSE?
Yes, during curriculum development there will be further opportunities to share views through consultation.
Where can I find out up-to-date information on developments in RSE?
Through the NCCA website and social media channels which will be updated regularly. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions related to RSE.
© 2021 National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. All Rights Reserved