The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is set to develop the Irish Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), a new sex ed programme over the coming years.
However, in the interim, there is a concerning knowledge gap among young people regarding their sexual health. This leaves them unprepared for the experiences and changes that can come with puberty and sexual initiation, including navigating relationships, and conversations around consent.
In response to this issue, Phil Corcoran and Muire O’Farrell of the Sexual Health Centre in Cork city developed the online ‘WISE’ facilitation training programme, to assist professionals engaging with young people in their delivery of RSE.
A major hurdle in the effective roll-out of RSE is the discomfort among educators in delivering the information – be it youth workers, teachers or parents. Educators have justified concerns about discussing topics like sexual identity and pornography with students, as they may fear backlash from colleagues, parents and communities. Meanwhile, many parents do not have access to the information and educational skills required to deliver RSE and worry that they might not get it right.
“By failing to provide young people with accurate information about their sexual health, we are setting them up for a fall. Lack of support and information is only aiding negative sexual health outcomes, which often results in internalised stigma, bullying, and ineffective communication skills. It is crucial that educators have a comprehensive toolkit so that they can deal with young peoples’ questions and concerns in an informed, sensitive and non-judgmental manner.” notes Phil Corcoran.
Muire O Farrell, Sexual Health Promotion Officer, highlighted the importance of raising awareness among young people of the supports that are available to them:
“Teens are often excluded from conversations about their own health so it’s vital that they are encouraged to voice their concerns and access information and support in a non-judgemental setting. Stigma, embarrassment, and myths are major barriers for young people who could be engaging in invaluable sexual health services.”
Throughout the course, professionals will be presented with a series of questions and statements relating to relationships, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, pregnancy, gender and sexuality. The WISE (What; Information; Support; Engagement & Education) tool is then applied to each question and statement.
Participants will be provided with a wealth of resources relating to each topic in the form of text, images and video content. On completion of the training programme, professionals will have access to a PowerPoint presentation to assist in their delivery of workshops to young people. They will also be provided with a facilitation guide and other materials to support their programme delivery.
The new sex ed online programme, WISE is funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The programme will be launched at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday, 9th December at 14:30. This free event is available to the public to stream online by Zoom, and it will include a panel discussion and demonstration of the programme.
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