A copy of our Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) Policy can be downloaded in full here.

Mission Statement

Through co-operation and mutual respect between the partners in education, the students, the teaching staff, parents and the Board of Management, we strive to ensure that each student achieves his/her full potential. Fingal Community College promotes a happy and caring community where pupils are encouraged and supported to reach their full potential. Teamwork, respect and the pursuit of excellence form cornerstones of the college philosophy. The characteristic spirit of the college is based on respect, tolerance and understanding while appreciating the diversity of our changing world. The college aims to provide a broad education for all students and to nurture their individual abilities and talents.

Introduction

This policy will apply to school staff, students, board of management, parents/guardian, visiting teachers and external facilitators. The purpose of this policy is to provide a written statement of the aims of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme, its’ connection to Social Political Health Education (SPHE) and the management of RSE in this school. This policy applies to all aspects of teaching and learning about relationships and sexuality. It is acknowledged that discussion about relationships and sexuality also takes place in classes other than SPHE/RSE. It is important therefore that all teachers are familiar with the RSE policy.

Definition of Relationships & Sexuality Education

RSE is a developmental process through experiential learning in which pupils participate to help cultivate a healthy, respectful attitude towards themselves and others, particularly in the area of sexuality and relationships. RSE aims to provide age appropriate opportunities for young people to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible manner. The curriculum is delivered using a spiral approach which allows for the treatment of topics to be deepened as the student matures.

Relationships & Sexuality Education within Social, Personal & Health Education (SPHE)

The Draft Guidelines for RSE (NCCA, June 1995, 1.2) state that SPHE is “spiral, developmental in nature and age appropriatein content and methodology”.  The RSE programme is designed to follow this principle and pattern.  Apart from the specific lessons of RSE; SPHE covers other areas that would be pertinent to the development of a healthy attitude to sexuality in oneself and one’s relationships with others.  SPHE addresses many areas such as self-esteem, assertiveness, communication and decision making skills – all of which are essential components that contribute to the effectiveness of the RSE programme.

College Philosophy

Fingal Community College encourages its students to consider and assess different viewpoints in relation to issues of morality. The experience gained in the development of this policy and through respecting the needs of minority groups and individuals enriches the community life of the College. 

In this College, students are afforded the opportunity to explore the humanities, sciences, arts business and technical subjects. In addition, this College provides religious, moral and physical education that support students in achieving their full potential.

Aims of the Relationships & Sexuality Programme

Relationships & Sexuality Education, which is located in the overall framework of Social, Personal & Health Education, has the following as its specific aims:

  1. To help students understand and develop friendships and relationships
  2. To promote an understanding of sexuality
  3. To promote a positive attitude to one’s own sexuality and in one’s relationships with others
  4. To promote knowledge and respect for reproduction
  5. To enable students to develop attitudes and values towards their sexuality in a moral, spiritual and social framework in keeping with the policy of the College
  6. To provide opportunities for students to learn about relationships and sexuality in a manner that encourages them to think and act in a mature, moral, caring and responsible way.

Organisation & Management of RSE

RSE is an integral part of our SPHE and Personal Development programmes. The principal will make every effort to facilitate teachers to obtain appropriate training in the areas of health, relationships and sexuality education in order to teach these subjects. The relevant teacher will follow the Department of Education guidelines and NCCA teacher guidelines on content covered and depth of treatment in all areas of the SPHE programme, including the delivery of RSE lessons. The Principal and Deputy Principal are responsible for the deployment of staff to teach the programme.

Informing & Involving Parents/Guardians

The College recognises that parents/guardians are the primary educators of their children.  Consequently, their role in Relationships & Sexuality Education is considered very important by the College. A copy of this policy will be made available to any parent on request. Parents have the right to withdraw their child from RSE classes if they wish.

Procedure if a Withdrawal from RSE is requested

Parents/Guardians are required to put their request in writing.  Parents/Guardians will be asked to attend a meeting in the College to discuss the nature of their concern(s).

It will be considered if the programme can be amended or improved in some way that will reassure the parents/guardians. Care will be taken not to undermine the integrity of the RSE programme and the entitlement of other students.

If it is necessary to withdraw the student, the College will make alternative arrangements for the student at that time. Parents/guardians will be guided on how to access appropriate information and resources. 

Resources & Training

Resources are stored in the Meeting Room and shared among the SPHE / RSE teachers.  RSE will be part of the SPHE curriculum for Junior Cycle students.  SPHE is timetabled each week for first, second and third year students.  Modules from the senior RSE programme will be delivered to Senior Cycle students based on the “Trust” programme.  The College is committed to keeping resources updated and will purchase appropriate RSE teaching materials as identified by the teaching staff.  A variety of teaching methods will be employed where appropriate.   Teachers will be accommodated and given every opportunity to attend in-service training in the area of SPHE / RSE.

Advice on Sexual Matters

The function of RSE is to provide a general education about sexual matters and issues and not to offer individual directive advice, information or counselling on aspects of sexual behaviour and contraception. Sources of professional information and advice will be identified when necessary and should be appropriate to the age of the student.

Explicit Questions

It may not be appropriate to deal with some explicit questions in class. Teachers can choose to advise that it is not appropriate to deal with that particular question at that time. When deciding whether or not to answer questions, the teacher should consider the age and maturity of the students, the RSE programme content, the ethos of the College and the RSE policy. If the teacher becomes concerned about a matter that has been raised, s/he should seek advice from the SPHE Coordinator or the Principal. 

Child Protection & Confidentiality

It is school policy that in circumstances where a pupil is considered at some risk of any type of abuse or in breach of the law; the teacher must refer immediately to the Designated Liaison Person who will take the appropriate course of action. In the case of underage sexual activity, the school will be guided by the Child Protection Guidelines for Post Primary Schools, page 10, where it states:

in all cases where a school becomes aware of underage sexual intercourse

the school shall take appropriate steps to inform parents/guardians”.

According to the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act 2006, seventeen years is the legal age of consent for both male and female persons. 

Teachers must not promise absolute confidentiality. Teachers must indicate clearly to students when the content of a conversation cannot be kept confidential, giving the student the opportunity to decide whether to proceed or not. Teachers must use their professional judgement to decide whether confidentiality can be maintained having heard the information.  Students must be made aware that any incident may be conveyed to the Principal and parents/guardians if the Principal decides that it is in the best interest of the student. 

The Child Protection Guidelines for Post Primary Schools states in 4.1.1 and 4.2.1:

4.1.1 “If a member of staff receives an allegation or has a suspicion that a child may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, he/she should, without delay, report the matter to the Designated Liaison Person in that school.  A written record of the report should be made and placed in a secure location by the Designated Liaison Person.  The need for confidentiality at all times, as previously referred to in Chapter 1 Paragraph 1.2 of these available to the child”.

4.2.1. “If the Designated Liaison Person is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion or allegation, he/she should report the matter to the relevant health board immediately”.

Biological Aspects of Sex Education

This policy recognises that the Science and Home Economics Departments cover the biological aspects of reproduction but this must also be covered within the Relationships & Sexuality Education programme.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender)

Teachers do not promote any one life-style as the only acceptable one for society and therefore it is natural that LGBT matters will be discussed age appropriately during a programme of sex education. One of the advantages of exploring issues concerning LGBT is the opportunity it affords to correct false ideas, assumptions and address prejudice.

The Equal Status Act 2000 and the Equality Act 2004 prohibit discrimination across nine groups including sexual orientation. The post primary RSE Guidelines include the topic of sexual orientation at senior cycle and can be addressed before senior cycle while exploring homophobic bullying.

Contraception

This topic will be addressed in an age appropriate open manner, looking at all sides of the issue in a non-directive manner.  The RSE curriculum states that the subject of family planning should be covered within the senior cycle RSE programmes. However, the College can use its discretion regarding the age at which students receive any aspect of the RSE programme.

Students with Additional Educational Needs

Children with additional educational needs may need extra support in coping with the physical and emotional aspects of growing up. The students may need more support in learning what types of behaviour are or are not acceptable regarding RSE. The Learning Support Department personnel have a particular role to play with the education of the students in RSE.

Monitoring, Evaluating & Reviewing

The College is committed to monitoring and evaluating the RSE programme. This will be achieved by:

  • Pupil feedback
  • Staff review and feedback
  • Parental feedback
  • SPHE subject planning meetings

Reporting to Parents

Any issue that the SPHE/PDE teachers need to report to parents/guardians will be arranged through the Principal, the Designated Liaison Person. An incident report on the concern will be recorded and filed confidentially in the College.

Appendix 1

Circular 0023/2010

To Chairpersons of Boards of Management and Principals

of all Post-Primary Schools

Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) & Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)

Best Practice Guidelines for Post-Primary Schools

INTRODUCTION

The Department of Education and Science wishes to advise management authorities of the necessity to adhere to best practice guidelines in the mandatory implementation of SPHE/RSE in the junior cycle and RSE in the senior cycle.

National and international research has consistently shown that the qualified classroom teacher is the best placed professional to work sensitively and consistently with students and that s/he can have a powerful impact on influencing students’ attitudes, values and behaviour in all aspects of health education.

The SPHE/RSE programme should have a substantial skills development element and should not merely be information based. Such skills are developed over time and founded on an ongoing relationship based on trust, understanding and mutual respect.

Young people flourish in an environment where there is a whole-school approach to the holistic growth of students and where there is a shared belief in their potential for development, learning and wellbeing.

RESPONSIBILITY OF SCHOOLS

The Education Act (1998) states that:

A recognised school shall promote the moral, spiritual, social and personal      development of students and provide health education for them, in consultation with their parents, having regard to the characteristic spirit of the school.

School management, principals and teachers have a duty to provide the best quality and most appropriate social, personal and health education for their students. They also have a duty to protect students in their care at all times from any potentially harmful, inappropriate or misguided resources.

Appendix 2

Circular 0023/2010

To Chairpersons of Boards of Management and Principals

of all Post-Primary Schools

Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) & Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)

Visitors to Post-Primary Schools: Guidelines

If schools wish to enhance or supplement SPHE/RSE by inviting visitors to the classroom precise criteria must apply. Outside facilitators who contribute to the SPHE/RSE programme can play a valuable role in supplementing, complementing and supporting a planned, comprehensive and established SPHE/RSE programme. Any such visitor or visiting group should adhere to the guidelines of good practice as set out in the SPHE Handbook Section 7 and which are condensed herewith:

  • Visitors to the classroom or school, particularly those engaging directly with students, should be aware of relevant school policies including the school’s child protection policy, RSE policy and substance misuse policy. Any such visit must be carefully planned in advance in line with the relevant whole-school SPHE/RSE programme(s) and policies.
  • Talks/programmes delivered by outside agencies or speakers must be consistent with and complementary to the school’s ethos and SPHE/RSE programme. Visits should be planned, researched and implemented in partnership with school personnel.
  • Relevant teachers need to liaise with and be involved with all visitors and external agencies working with the school and the whole staff needs to be made aware of same.
  • It is strongly recommended that parents should be consulted and made aware of any such visiting people or agencies to classrooms/schools.
  • The school’s SPHE/RSE coordinator may also help in the process of whole-school planning and coordination to support the effective implementation of SPHE/RSE.
  • It is of the utmost importance that classroom teachers remain in the classroom with the students and retain a central role in delivery of the core subject matter of the SPHE/RSE programme. The presence of the classroom teacher should ensure that the school follows appropriate procedures for dealing with any issue(s) that may arise as a result of the external input(s).
  • All programmes and events delivered by visitors and external agencies must use appropriate, evidence-based methodologies with clear educational outcomes. Such programmes are best delivered by those specifically qualified to work with the young people for whom the programmes are designed.
  • All programmes, talks, interventions and events should be evaluated by students and teachers in terms of the subject matter, messages, structure, methodology and proposed learning outcomes.

PLEASE NOTE

Research findings indicate that the following teaching approaches have limited effect and are counterproductive to the effective implementation of SPHE. In light of this, schools are advised to avoid the following approaches:

Scare tactics

Information that induces fear, and exaggerates negative consequences, is inappropriate and counterproductive.

Sensationalist interventions

Interventions that glamorise or portray risky behaviour in an exciting way are inappropriate and can encourage inappropriate risk taking.

Testimonials

Stories focused on previous dangerous lifestyles can encourage the behaviour they were designed to prevent by creating heroes/heroines of individuals who give testimony.

Information only interventions

Programmes which are based on information alone are very limited in the learning outcomes they can achieve and can in fact be counterproductive in influencing values, attitudes and behaviour.

Information that is not age appropriate

Giving information to students about behaviours they are unlikely to engage in can be counterproductive in influencing values, attitudes and behaviour.

Once off/short term interventions

Short-term interventions, whether planned or in reaction to a crisis, are ineffective.

Normalising young people’s risky behaviour

Giving the impression to young people, directly or indirectly, that all their peers will engage/are engaging in risky behaviours could put pressure on them to do things they would not otherwise do.

Didactic approach

Didactic approaches which are solely directive in nature are ineffective in the successful implementation of SPHE/RSE.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Information, advice and support is available from the SPHE Support Service which is a partnership between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children, and the Health Service Executive, in association with Marino Institute of Education.

SPHE Support Service Tel: (01) 805-7718

(Post-Primary) Fax: (01) 853-5113

Marino Institute of Education Email: sphe@mie.ie

Griffith Avenue Website: www.sphe.ie

Dublin 9.