Changes to sex education ruled out

THE Department of Education yesterday ruled out any changes to the sex education programme in primary schools following the Tánaiste's comments on allowing children as young as 11 access to the morning-after pill.

A spokesperson for the department said no change was envisaged in the Primary RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) programme. The Primary RSE is part of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum.

Since September 2003 all schools are required to include one period of SPHE a week in their timetables, but no figures are currently available for the number of primary teachers who have received RSE training in recent years.

However, at post-primary level, 1,200 teachers received RSE training in the school years between 2002 and 2004.

The National Parents Council said more needed to be done at primary level to educate children.

Spokeswoman Fionnula Kilfeather pointed to a survey carried out by the old North West Health Board in June 2002 when more than 1,000 youth were surveyed about their attitudes to sex and education.

The study, conducted in counties Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim, found that children learned very little in school about sex and that parents found it difficult to broach the topic with their children.

It also found that magazines and television were the prime source of information for young people, while youth groups had no policies in relation to sex education.

Primary RSE includes lessons on changes at puberty, the male and female reproductive system, sexual intercourse, the development of the baby in the womb and personal safety.

Ms Kilfeather said while the curriculum itself was adequate, "by no means are all the schools teaching it".

The NPC is to run a training programme for parents on how to inform their children about sex this autumn.

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