RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) Policy
Draft Only. October 2016
This policy aims at ensuring that a high-quality, comprehensive programme of RSE is delivered to the students of Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine in a professional manner and with a view to the holistic development of the student. It aims at delivering this education as a RSE module within the SPHE programme at Junior Cert Level and as a distinct and independent module at Senior Cycle. 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, Home Economics, Social Education etc. and 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, Board of Management, parents/guardians, visiting speakers and external facilitators. The policy was developed between March and May, 2011 and involved a series of meetings and discussions with the core working group, the entire school staff, the Board of Management, the Parents and the Student Council.
Relationship to characteristic spirit of the school
- The Mission Statement of Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine refers to our commitment ‘to the care and development of each individual’ and to the creation of a ‘safe, caring and happy environment’. In this context our RSE policy affirms these values, acknowledging the significance of integrated and holistic human development which fosters in students an awareness of and a capacity for healthy and fulfilling human relationships.
- The RSE policy reflects the core values of our Code of Courtesy i.e. active listening, mutual respect, kindness and inclusivity.
- Our RSE policy reflects and respects the religious values encapsulated in the Deeds of Trust of Community Schools. 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 the school ethos.
Rationale and Objectives
- Sexuality is a key element of healthy social and personal development. Young people are exposed to a bewildering 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, 1998 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. At Junior cycle, the RSE programme is part of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE).
- Circulars M4/95 and M20/96 request schools to commence a process of RSE policy development.
- We refer to two further circulars that pertain to this issue: RSE 0027/2000, SPHE and RSE Best Practice for Post-Primary Schools, 0023/2010 and 0037/2010
- We recognise that the effectiveness of an RSE programme is dependent on a collaborative policy process involving all stakeholders- teachers, parents/guardians, members of the Board of Management and students.
The objectives of the RSE Policy include the following:
- It will ensure clarity and consensus 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 Board of Management.
- 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.
- 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 understanding of and respect for human reproduction. It will make students aware of diversity, heighten their sensitivity to others and foster attitudes of inclusivity.
It is acknowledged that in a course of limited duration these aims are aspirational.
- Provision of Training and Staff Development.
- The school has appointed a staff member, Ms Ann Finn, as Coordinator of SPHE.
- All teachers assigned to teach RSE will be offered training in this area.
- Ordinarily, teachers are consulted prior to being timetabled for SPHE/RSE.
- 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.
- 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 were invited to participate in the process of drawing up a school policy on RSE.
- Ordinarily, parents will be informed of the RSE programme at the Information Evening for First Year Parents 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.
- Ethical/Moral Considerations
- Answering Questions: 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.
- Confidentiality: 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, the Principal, 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 about something, the teacher can and should keep this information to him or herself. Students should also be made aware they too may need to make judgements regarding confidentiality when sensitive information indicating risk is disclosed to them by friends.
- Sexual Activity: 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, for heterosexual and homosexual relationships. 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.
- Contraception: 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. See Appendix for details of lessons
- Sexual Identity: 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.
- 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.
- Practical Issues
- SPHE/RSE is time-tabled in all Junior Cycle classes
- Provision for RSE at Senior Cycle is for Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Year pupils.
- Class groups for SPHE/RSE are mixed gender of no more 30 pupils in compliance with guidelines issued by The Department of Education and Skills.
- 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 Department.
- Students who are pregnant will be consulted and given the option of ‘opting out’ of RSE class.
- Parents will be provided with a booklet that outlines the RSE course at Junior and Senior Cycle on enrolment.
- Parents will be provided with a full 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 perhaps we can resolve misunderstandings. Once a parent’s request to withdraw is made that request must be complied with until revoked by the parent.
Links to Other Policies and to Curriculum Delivery
- Links to related school policies
Within the framework of the overall School Plan, the relevant school policies that are already in place, have been examined with reference to this RSE Policy.
The following policies have been taken into consideration in the development of this policy:
- Child Protection Policy
- Guidance Plan
- Anti-Bullying Policy
- Substance Use Policy
- Links to Curriculum delivery
- 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 incorporates Senior Cycle RSE.
- Aspects of RSE are delivered across the curriculum, through subjects such as Religious Education, Science, Biology Home Economics and Social Education. Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine 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 Board of Management will co-ordinate implementation of the RSE policy. Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine will offer ongoing training for teachers and the policy committee where necessary to help them implement the RSE programme. Information regarding courses or training for parents may be offered and organised by the Parents’ Association/BOM/school. Relevant RSE school resources will be sourced, stored and updated by the school SPHE -Coordinator.
Ratification & Communication
This policy will be available to parents, teachers and the BOM and amended when consensus has been reached by all parties. The final agreed policy will be presented to the BOM, to be ratified and then circulated to all parties involved.
Parents/guardians will be informed of the RSE Policy from the time of enrolment of the student; a booklet outlining the teaching programme for RSE will be given to parents. It will also be available on the school website, www.kenmarecs.com and available in the school Office.
Monitoring the implementation of the policy
The SPHE co-ordinator in association with the school management will monitor the implementation of this policy. Reviewing and evaluating the policy The policy will be reviewed and evaluated every three years under the direction of the Board of Management. This process will be co-ordinated by the SPHE Coordinator and Student Support Committee, 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. The SPHE co-ordinator will have the role of monitoring aspects of the policy. 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 through SPHE for all relevant students
- Where SPHE may not be timetabled, e.g. at Senior Cycle, that these students are receiving RSE
- Resource material is available to teachers
- Appropriate in-service for teachers is available and relevant teachers are availing of it
- Students are aware of the policy parents/guardians are aware of the policy
- Positive feedback is received from teachers, other school staff, students, parents/guardians, members of board of management and trustees.
Appendix 1: Summary of RSE lessons Junior and Senior Cycle
The following may be considered to support the process of review and evaluation:
- A confidential survey of students and staff
- Feedback from student council or the student body
- Parent/guardian feedback, including at parent/teacher meetings
- A comment/suggestion box.
Reviewed: October 2016
Next date for review: October 2019