New Irish sex education syllabus to cover LGBTQ+ issues

Lessons on consent, online pornography and the sharing of explicit images are also proposed for secondary school students.

A school classroom where LGBTQ+ issues will now be discussed in sex education.
Image: Unsplash

A draft review of the Junior Cycle SPHE syllabus has been published with officials recommending that LGBTQ+ issues be included within the sex education course. This comes after the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) was asked in 2018 to undertake a major review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools in order to ensure that it was meeting the needs of young people in Ireland today. The group’s research concluded that the information currently being provided to students was “too little, too late and too biological,” and therefore the subject was in need of a revamp.

In relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, the draft document says that after undertaking the course, students should be able to appreciate that the above “are core parts of human identity and that each is experienced along a spectrum”.

Alongside LGBTQ+ issues, the NCCA is also recommending that topics such as consent, the effects of pornography on sexual expectations and relationships, the sharing of explicit images, and gender stereotyping should all be included within the new curriculum. If implemented, students will also learn about healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships, as well as the importance of safe sex.

The broader draft SPHE curriculum covers topics such as bias, inequality or exclusion to development of emotional resilience, and addiction. As of Monday, July 18, the syllabus is now open for public consultation which will conclude in three months’ time.

Speaking on the revised course material, Minister for Education Norma Foley said it was developed “based on research, evidence and engagement with stakeholders.”

She continued: “The NCCA has engaged with the student voice and listened carefully to what they have said. The aim is to ensure that we have a modern and appropriate curriculum that reflects modern, day to day challenges and equips our students with the knowledge and skills that they need to make informed, healthy life choices.”

The updated SPHE curriculum which is expected to include LGBTQ+ issues within sex education is due to be ready for implementation within the junior cycle from 2023. The 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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