Latest: Sex education in Irish schools 'not fit for purpose'

Update 11.38am: A Bill to prevent schools from using their religious ethos to avoid teaching full objective and factual sex education is to be debated in the Dáil.

Launching the Objective Sexual Education Bill, Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said the school curriculum should cover contraception, sexuality, gender, LGBT+ issues and consent.

Her Bill would remove religious ethos from the relationships and sexuality education curriculum.

While Ms Coppinger welcomed the review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools announced by Education Minister Richard Bruton this week, she said changing the curriculum will be pointless if schools can opt out of teaching it on the basis of ethos.

The Bill has the support of a number of groups including the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, National Women's Council of Ireland, USI and the Irish Family Planning Association,

Ms Coppinger said: "The way sex education is taught to young people in schools is not fit for purpose. It is hampered by the religious ethos of schools and is not factual and objective.

"Young people are told to abstain rather than being taught about important issues like consent."

Also attending the launch Clíona Saidléar from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland welcomed the Bill which would make consent a core part of sex education for every child.

"Consent and mutual respect are the fundamental building blocks for not only healthy sexual relationships but a good society.

"We believe these values and tools should be universally taught to children regardless of religious or school ethos," she said.

The Bill, which was moved in first stage last week will be debated in the Dáil on April 18.

Update 11.38am: Calls for new approach to sex education in Irish schools

There are calls today for a different approach to teaching young people about sex in schools.

The Solidarity Party wants to remove religious ethos from the discussion, making it more factual and objective.

Sixth-year student Megan Brady said that sexual education in school can be very awkward and incomplete.

"Last year, due to a scheduling error, the one sex education class I did get from my school was more or less a half an hour on natural family planning," she said.

"A very uncomfortable teacher stood at the front of the classroom for half an hour, and told us to mark the days on the calendar that we got out period, and then told us what days of the month we could conceive.

"Lesson over - that was the conversation finished."

Earlier: New Bill proposes new sex education programme regardless of school's religious ethos

New legislation being proposed by the Solidarity party would force all schools to teach students about contraception and LGBT issues - regardless of the schools religious ethos.

The Objective Sexual Education Bill also proposes that issues like consent and sexuality are taught in all schools.

The Rape Crisis Network, the National Women's Council and the Irish Family Planning Association say they're in favour of the proposals.

It follows yesterday's announcement by Education Minister Richard Bruton of a review of sex education.

Ian Power from youth website SpunOut.ie says consent classes should begin in primary school.

"You can talk to children about this topic in an age-appropriate way by talking to them about the fact that they have bodily autonomy so that they have the right to not be touched or inappropriately," he said.

- Digital desk

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