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18th May 2023

Norma Foley says sex education syllabus will bring “real experience of young people”

Norma Foley

The syllabus hasn’t been updated in 20 years

Ireland’s new sex education curriculum that was published this week by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, will be introduced for all Junior Cycle students from September.

It will provide 100 hours of learning over the three-year Junior Cycle for 12-to 15-year-olds. It plans to address issues like self-awareness and self-esteem, the use of pornography, LGBTQ+ issues and sexual consent.

Education Minister Norma Foley believes the new syllabus will bring “the real lived experience of young people today”.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) published a refreshed SPHE (social, personal and health education) programme on Tuesday.

Speaking outside the Department of Education Minister Foley said she is aware of the “huge amount” of young people accessing pornography on their phones.

She said: “We need our children to be safeguarded, we need them to be protected and we need them to access information in a safe space and not be relying on the mobile phones, this is not the world in which it’s a safe environment for them.

“The guidelines and the curriculum are very clear.

“There will be no pornographic material taught or shown in our schools and pornography will not be taught, what will be taught will be respect for yourself, respect for others.”

“The best decision must be made in the interest of the students”

Over the past couple of weeks there have been protests about the introduction of this new sex education program in to Irish schools.

Last week Gardaí were called to Norma Foley’s constituency over a protest about teaching about gender identity.

When asked about this, Norma Foley said she understands people have different views because that’s democracy.

According to the Irish Times, she said: “But I think that the [NCCA] have gone to great, great lengths to hear all voices and to allow all voices to be expressed.

“The best decision must be made in the interest of the student.”

Along with the new sex education curriculum, the Department of Education is funding education on the topic for teachers.

They plan to put school staff through a postgraduate diploma along with a two-day professional development provision on the subject of SPHE.

This new measure to revamp the SPHE curriculum comes from the Government-commissioned review of sex education in primary and secondary schools in Ireland.

It found that the syllabus was out of date and didn’t reflect the reality of young peoples’ lives – especially around LGBTQ+ issues.

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