In light of proposed changes to the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum in post-primary schools in Northern Ireland, the Transferor Representatives’ Council has published three articles.
The Council represents Church of Ireland interests and those of colleagues in the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches in northern education, and the articles are now up online on the TRC website (see links below) and also the Church of Ireland website and Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The Church of Ireland has compiled the information into a single article which can be read below.
Please note events being held by Evangelical Alliance. The first took place in Belfast on September 14, with future events in Dungannon on September 28, Enniskillen on October 17 and Portstewart One October 22. Full details of these events can be found on: www.eauk.org/about-us/nations/northern-ireland/rse-response-events
Responding to proposed changes to RSE
In June 2023 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland introduced legislation regarding the teaching of elements of Relationships and Sexuality Education at post-primary level.
The legislation makes changes to the Learning for Life and Work Curriculum in the area of Relationships and Sexuality Education at Key Stages 3 and 4 – in post-primary schools – and requires that young people receive:
‘age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.’
Schools, including Boards of Governors, must have ‘regard to guidance’ issued by the Department of Education, and the Department is also required to make provision for pupils, at the request of their parents/carers, to opt-out of these aspects of the RSE Curriculum.
The Department of Education has to be in a position to implement these new aspects of the curriculum by 1st January 2024.
It continues to update its information on RSE and relevant developments on its website at www.education-ni.gov.uk/articles/relationship-and-sexuality-education-rse
CCEA & the RSE Hub
For a number of years now, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessments (CCEA) has hosted an RSE Hub on its website which can be found at https://ccea.org.uk/learning-resources/relationships-and-sexuality-education-rse
The Hub contains links to a progression framework and a number of resources related to each area of learning. There is no compulsion on any school or teacher to use these resources; the CCEA RSE Hub clearly states that “teachers should… review resources before using them to check that they’re appropriate for their pupils and in line with their school’s ethos and RSE policy”.
CCEA has been commissioned by the Department of Education to develop guidance on the new aspects of the curriculum covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion. Transferor representatives – representing the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church in education – are part of a stakeholder group which CCEA is keeping informed of developments.
RSE policy within schools
It remains the case that the RSE policy of a school should be agreed by the Board of Governors, in line with a school’s ethos which, within controlled schools, is a non-denominational Christian ethos. There should also be consultation with parents, and the RSE policy should be made available on the school’s website. None of these provisions have been changed by the new legislation.
For more information on school ethos please visit www.csscni.org.uk/ethos
The Department of Education has opened a period of consultation (Friday, 1st September to Friday, 24th November) on the proposed opt-out provision which will allow parents/carers to withdraw their pupil from aspects of the RSE curriculum. Details can be found at www.education-ni.gov.uk/consultations
We would encourage you to prayerfully complete the consultation and share with as many concerned parents, governors and teachers as possible. The consultation opened on Friday, 1st September, and runs until Friday, 24th November.
The Transferor Representatives’ Council would encourage anyone concerned about this issue to attend the events being held by Evangelical Alliance in Belfast (14th September), Dungannon (28th September), Enniskillen (17th October), and Portstewart (22nd October). Full details of these events can be found on: www.eauk.org/about-us/nations/northern-ireland/rse-response-events
As yet there has been no sign of a consultation on the guidance being developed by CCEA on prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion. The latter consultation may also take the opportunity ask for views on the recent Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission report on RSE (https://tinyurl.com/bdhjvwwc) and the Education and Training Inspectorate report on the Preventative Curriculum. (https://tinyurl.com/2p8zukdy). The consultation on the guidance should indicate the full extent of the changes proposed by the Department of Education and provide an opportunity to offer feedback on those changes.
In the meantime, the Transferor Representatives’ Council (TRC) will continue to engage with CCEA, the Department and relevant elected representatives on these matters.
For more information please contact Dr Peter Hamill, Secretary to TRC, as per details below.
c/o Board of Education NI
Church of Ireland
Floor 2, 18-20 Hill Street
Tel: 028 9082 8860