Community groups welcome inclusion of LGBTQ+ issues in updated Irish sex education syllabus

The Children's Rights Alliance expressed that including queer themes in SPHE is “extremely positive and vitally important to ensuring an inclusive curriculum”.

A school bag and two Irish education pupils sitting down.
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According to recent submissions to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), various community groups and ally organisations are welcoming the inclusion of LGBTQ+ issues in the updated Irish sex education syllabus. Due to be implemented from September 2023, the new Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) course is expected to provide teachings on sexual and gender identities, the sharing of explicit imagery, the effects of pornography and more. 

The curriculum encompasses 100 hours of learning over the three-year Junior Cycle period, for students aged between 12 and 15 years old. A first draft of the programme was originally revealed in July 2022, after the statutory body of the Department of Education determined that the information currently provided to students is “too little, too late and too biological”.

After revealing its proposal, a three-month public consultation was opened to garner feedback regarding the recommendations.

According to The Irish Times, the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) has particularly praised the NCCA’s “mention of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” in its draft published last year. 

Foróige, a youth development organisation, similarly welcomed the review, stating that the use of pronouns should be included, and adding that the term “biological sex” should be removed as the organisation feels it “is currently used to weaponise/demonise the trans community”. It recommended instead that “sex assigned at birth” should be used as a more appropriate and inclusive option.

Furthermore, the Children’s Rights Alliance expressed that having teachings on themes that are “core to our human identity” such as gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation, are “extremely positive and vitally important to ensuring an inclusive curriculum”.

However, there has also been opposition to the updated Irish sex education curriculum from certain religious and parent groups. While welcoming a revision of the syllabus, one Catholic body said that the “constitutionally protected right of patrons to run their schools from a faith-based perspective” should be taken into account when developing the programme.

The Irish SPHE course has not been updated in 20 years and Senior Cycle students will have to wait until 2024 to receive a revamped syllabus, with primary school students expected to get an updated course in 2025.

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