Senior Cycle Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

Development of a new Senior Cycle Social Personal and Health Education curriculum has commenced.

Arising from the review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools, the need to update the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum was identified as a key priority. This updating work began with Junior Cycle SPHE and is now focused on the redevelopment of the Senior Cycle SPHE curriculum.

Draft Senior Cycle SPHE specification

The consultation on the draft Senior Cycle SPHE specification was open from July 12th to November 3rd, 2023. Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide feedback. A report on the consultation will be published in 2024. 

Background Paper and Brief for the redevelopment of Senior Cycle SPHE

Online SPHE Toolkits

Online toolkits to support teachers in their engagement with the current SPHE curriculum are available. 

The Senior Cycle SPHE Development Group consists of the nominees from a range of education stakeholders including teacher and management bodies and the Department of Education. Reports of development group meetings are available below.

Note of meeting November 2022

Note of meeting December 2022

Note of meeting January 2023

Note of meeting March 2023

Note of meeting April 2023

Note of meeting May 2023

Note of meeting November 2023

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 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

Research Paper 

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.

Student Voice

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. 

Written Submissions

Click here to access the written submissions received during the two phases of RSE consultation (2018-19) outlined above.

To access developments related to the Primary SPHE curriculum click here

To access developments related to the Junior Cycle SPHE curriculum click here

Since the report on the review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) was published (Jan 2019), what actions have been taken?

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, were formed. The immediate focus of these groups was to develop and publish guidance for teaching SPHE/RSE to support teachers in their engagement with the current curriculum in a confident and holistic manner.

This guidance is available in SPHE online toolkits:

The Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools also recommended the development of a single, integrated curriculum for RSE and SPHE spanning both primary and post-primary education, with adequate time to teach it.

For more detail on curriculum developments see:

What is currently being taught in Irish primary and post-primary schools in SPHE/RSE?

For more than 25 years the curriculum has included Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), with Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) as a key part of this.

To view the current SPHE curricula click on the relevant link:

At what stage are SPHE curriculum developments?

The work in redeveloping the SPHE curriculum began with junior cycle. An updated Junior Cycle SPHE course has been developed and will be available for first year students entering post-primary education in September 2023.

Work on Primary and Senior Cycle SPHE commenced in late 2022. A draft senior cycle curriculum document will be available for public consultation in late 2023. At primary, developments in SPHE are part of wider curriculum redevelopments. Learning and teaching related to SPHE will be part of the curriculum area of Wellbeing. A draft Wellbeing specification will be available for public consultation in 2024.

As the curriculum work develops there will be opportunities for engagement with all the key stakeholders, as well as further public consultation processes, before new curriculum specifications for Primary and Senior Cycle SPHE are finalised.

In SPHE what topics will be taught and at what age will these be taught?

The list of topics and when they are taught are agreed through the NCCA structures. NCCA structures include primary, junior cycle and senior cycle Development Groups. These Development Groups are made up of teachers, Department of Education inspectors and other stakeholder representatives. The Development Groups develop the curriculum and decide on the topics to be included. These decisions are informed by consultations, research and international best practice. Amongst the guiding principles for all Development Group discussions is an awareness that topics should be taught in an age-appropriate, sensitive and incremental manner.

Who has a say in the SPHE curriculum developments?

The NCCA adopts a partnership approach to curriculum development, with work carried out on behalf of Council by Boards and Development Groups. To provide a strong, representative and responsive basis for its curriculum development work, NCCA establishes Development Groups to undertake specific tasks in curriculum areas or subjects. Members of Development Groups are nominated by the partners in education and include representatives of teachers, school management, parents and other stakeholders in education.

For information on the groups involved in curriculum development click on the link below:

The NCCA advises the Minister for Education on curriculum and assessment and this advice is shaped by research, best practice and deliberation, as well as extensive consultation with the public, schools, education stakeholders and others. Consultation, including online surveys and focus groups, is a key part of the work of the NCCA.

During the development of an updated curriculum, consultations are publicised via www.ncca.ie and NCCA social media channels (Twitter @NCCAie, Instagram @NCCA_irl and Facebook @NCCA).

How can parents/guardians or interested individuals and groups get involved in SPHE curriculum developments?

Parents are the primary educators of their children and important partners in the school-based education process. The NCCA involves parents in conversations and public consultations so that they can share their views on developments.

This sharing of views is facilitated in a variety of ways – through working with representative groups, and through public consultation, including online surveys and focus groups. Public consultations are publicised via www.ncca.ie and NCCA social media channels (Twitter @NCCAie, Instagram @NCCA_irl and Facebook @NCCA).

Where can I find out up-to-date information on curriculum developments in SPHE and other areas?

Up-to-date information on curriculum developments in SPHE and other areas is available on www.ncca.ie and NCCA social media channels (Twitter @NCCAie, Instagram @NCCA_irl and Facebook @NCCA). You can also sign up to our newsletter here.