Relationships and Sexuality Education

Relationships and Sexuality Education Policy


A. School


St. Columba’s Comprehensive is a co-educational, academically non-selective school, with an enrolment around 380.


B. Our School Philosophy


Our school is inclusive and respectful: therefore we encourage our students to consider and assess different viewpoints in relation to issues of morality. The school mission statement encourages “the development of personal responsibility founded on honesty, justice and truth.”




As well as providing the pupils the opportunity to explore the humanities, sciences, arts, business studies, religious education and technical subjects, the school sees that providing spiritual, moral, physical and social education is equally important to support pupils in achieving their full academic potential and preparing them for participation in civic society and working life. SPHE, and the RSE component within it, fulfils some of these objectives.




A code of behaviour has been drawn up and approved by the partners. “The code of behaviour in St. Columba’s Comprehensive School should be considered in the context of the school being a community in which mutual respect, cooperation and natural justice are integral features.”




C. Definition of relationships and Sexuality Education


RSE is a development process through experiential learning in which pupils participate to help cultivate a healthy attitude towards themselves and others, particularly in the area of sexuality and relationships.




D. RSE within SPHE


The draft guidelines for RSE (NCCA, June 1995, 1.2) state that SPHE is “spiral, developmental in nature and age appropriate in 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, which would be pertinent to the development of a healthy attitude towards sexuality in oneself and one’s relationship with others. SPHE deals with many issues such as self-esteem, assertiveness, communication and decision-making skills – all of which can contribute to the effectiveness of the RSE programme.




E. What the school currently provides


SPHE, of which RSE is part, is timetabled for every year group of our school.


A yearly plan of topics covered is included in the “SPHE subject plan”, available at the school.


SPHE is taught by a number of different teachers, both male and female.


SPHE teachers all have a basic training in the concept and methodology of the subject, but not all of them would have trained in RSE. However, RSE is seen as an integral part of the SPHE curriculum.


Since the 1980’s, when “Lifeskills” was introduced into schools in the North West as a pilot project, our school has provided the subject at both junior and senior levels in the school.


Parents are informed at transition seminars (where incoming first years and their parents are invited to an information evening about what the school has to offer) about the SPHE provision in the school. As regards the RSE section of the subject, parents are made aware that they have the right to withdraw their son/daughter if they so wish.


The content of the RSE programme taught to a particular year group is:


* Age-related.


* Centred in the local issues in the area here in Glenties and surrounds.


Programmes of work in SPHE are reviewed by teachers in departmental meetings at least twice yearly. These programmes may be altered or amended where a specific issue arises and is of concern.


RSE has a duration of 6 classes per year.


Elements of SPHE/RSE are also taught in subjects such as: Guidance and Counselling, Home Economics, Science, Biology, Physical Education and Religious Education.


This is in conjunction with the following co-curricular elements in our school:


a. Care team meetings.


b. Mentoring programme for new 1st Year pupils by 6th Years.


c. Student Council.


d. Fairness and respect: Year Head and Class Teachers.


e. School Musicals and other extra-curricular activities.


f. Involvement in Young Social Innovators.


g. Friends for Life programme.


h. St. Vincent de Paul.


i. Visiting speakers.


j. Themed plays delivered by touring drama group.




F. The aims of our RSE Programme


RSE is located within the overall framework of SPHE and has as its specific aims:


* To help students understand and develop friendships and relationships.


* To promote an understanding of sexuality.


* To promote a positive attitude to one’s own sexuality and in one’s relationship with others.


* To promote knowledge of and respect for reproduction.


* To enable pupils to develop attitudes and values toward their sexuality in a moral, spiritual and social framework in keeping with the policy of the school.


* To provide opportunities for pupils to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way.


It is acknowledged that in a course of limited duration, these aims are aspirational.




G. Guidelines for the management and organisation of RSE in our school


a. Arrangements regarding the teaching of the programme and the deployment of staff will be made by the Principal.


b. Involving and informing Parents:


i. Parents are the primary educators of their children and their role in education concerning relationships and sexuality is seen by the school as very important.


ii. As mentioned in the above section “Current Provisions”, the transition information evening for incoming first years and their parents, is an ideal time to introduce the programme which we offer in the school. This policy has been designed in consultation with the representatives of the Parents’ Association and the views expressed by parents will be taken into account when reviewing the policy. Copies of this policy will be made available to any parent on request to the school office or through the Principal.


iii. Offering advice: The school’s function is to provide a general education about sexual matters and issues and not to offer individual advice, information or counselling on aspects of sexual behaviour and contraception – however sources of professional information and advice will be identified when appropriate. Teachers may provide pupils with education and information about where and from whom they can receive confidential sexual advice and treatment, e.g. their doctor or other suitable agency. Advice offered should not be directive and should be appropriate to the age of the pupil.


iv. Explicit Questions


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




5. Confidentiality:


The Child Protection Procedures 2017 will inform all aspects of confidentiality.


The Child Protection Procedures for Post Primary Schools state in 5.1.1:


* 5.1.1. If a member of school personnel, including a registered teacher, receives an allegation or has a suspicion that a child may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, (as described in Chapter 2 of these procedures) he/she shall, without delay, report the matter to the DLP in the school, who is responsible for ensuring that the reporting procedures in this chapter are followed. In addition registered teachers, as mandated persons, are required to follow the procedures at section 5.2 of this chapter.


The DLP shall make a written record of any concern brought to his or her attention by a member of school personnel and shall place this record in a secure location. All school personnel must have due regard to the need for confidentiality at all times, as previously referred in section 1.3.11 of these procedures. The supports of the school shall continue to be made available to the child(ren) concerned.




The following is also school policy:


* The Designated Liaison Person is Frances Boner, Principal.


* Teachers cannot promise absolute confidentiality.


* Pupils must be made aware that any incident may be conveyed to the Principal and possibly to parents if the Principal decides that it is in the best interests of the pupil to notify parents.


* If a matter is raised by a pupil, of any concern to the teacher, then it must be reported by the teacher to the Designated Liaison Person.




6. Withdrawing pupils from the RSE Programme


* Where a parent/guardian choses to provide RSE solely at home, his/her rights as a parent with regard to the child’s participation in the school’s RSE programme will be discussed and respected.


* In such cases, the parent/guardian should contact the Principal in writing, confirming their wish to withdraw.


* The parent will then meet with the Principal and the SPHE coordinator.




7. Using Visiting Speakers and Others


Research has indicated that certain visitors and teaching approaches have limited effect and are counterproductive to the effective implementation of SPHE.


Circular 0023/2010 indicates that approaches such as scare tactics, sensationalist interventions, etc., are not helpful in the area of RSE.


* It is school policy that most of the RSE programme is best discussed openly with teachers who are known and trusted by the pupils. However visitors can enhance the quality of the provision so long as they are used in addition to, not instead of a planned RSE programme.


* 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.


* The content and material of the visit should be made available to the SPHE coordinator or organiser of the meeting. Issues to consider are:


o The degree of explicitness of the content and presentation.


o That the visitor will be accompanied by teaching staff.


o Will the staff take an active role in the visitor’s activities?


o How will the visitor be prepared for the visit?


o How will the visit be built upon and followed up?




The office should be informed of the date and name of the visitor.




8. Sexual Orientation


As a society, we acknowledge a range of sexual orientations including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. As such, it is appropriate that sexual orientation will be discussed during a programme of RSE. One of the advantages of exploring this issue is the opportunity to correct false ideas and assumptions and address prejudice. The Equal Status Act, 2000 and the Equality Act, 2004 prohibit discrimination across nine grounds, including sexual orientation. The school may decide that the topic needs to be addressed at Junior Cycle, for example, if homophobic bullying is an issue. Discussion of these issues should be appropriate to the age of the pupils.




9. Contraception


This topic will be dealt with in age appropriate, open manner, looking at all sides of the issues in a non-directive way.




10. Special Needs


The school Special Needs Policy states that “In the school we aim to offer excellence and choice to all our children, whatever their ability or needs”…. “Children have different educational and behavioural needs and aspirations, require different strategies for learning… activity-based teaching methodologies… in order to help children manage their behaviour and to take part in learning effectively and safely”.


The school is aware that children with special needs may need more help than others in coping with the physical and emotional aspects of growing up, and with acceptable norms of behaviour. In catering for these children’s needs, the school will be mindful of the school’s Special Needs Policy.




H. Ongoing support, development and review




* All teachers involved in this work do not necessarily have to be ‘experts’ on the issues concerned. However they do require sensitivity to the needs of the group, an ability to deal with questions openly/honestly and preparedness to refer to more expert advice if necessary. The skills acquired in general teaching also apply to health education. Furthermore, many teachers have training in related areas. Some teachers have expert training in the specific areas of health, relationships and sexuality education and will be encouraged to train other teachers.


* The school will facilitate teachers to obtain expert training in this field, bearing in mind the overall budgetary framework and the need for the ongoing teaching and learning programme of the school to continue with as little disturbance as possible.


* We acknowledge the support of the Health Promotion Department (HSE-West) and its predecessor, the Lifeskills Team of the NWHB, and the SPHE Support Service. Together, these two bodies underpin our training and ongoing professional support needs.






Within the budgetary constraints, all resources needed to develop and support the RSE Programme, will be provided by the school. See Appendix 1 for a list of resources currently used within our school.


Monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the RSE programme:


We are committed to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of this programme. Specifically important to the RSE Programme are:


* Pupil feedback;


* Staff review and feedback;


* Parental feedback.