Richard Bruton: Teaching of consent in primary schools of 'considerable importance'

The Minister for Education Richard Bruton confirmed this morning on Today with Sean O'Rourke that he has written to the NCCA to initiate a review of sex education curriculum and how it is delivered in schools.

Richard Bruton: Teaching of consent in primary schools of 'considerable importance'

Update 11.38am: The Minister for Education Richard Bruton confirmed this morning on Today with Sean O'Rourke that he has written to the NCCA to initiate a review of sex education curriculum and how it is delivered in schools.

He said the review is very timely as students are facing challenges that are dramatically different today compared with the student 20 years ago for whom the curriculum was designed, particularly in areas such as consent and marriage equality.

Mr Bruton said, in particular, he would like the role of social media and the internet to be addressed as well as issues surrounding sexual orientation and LGBTQI.

The Minister says the NCCA will revert to him when they have assessed his request with a specific timeline.

"We've introduced a new definition, a legal definition, of consent.

Clearly that is an issue that is of very considerable importance in equipping any young person in terms of sexuality and their relationships.

"It's important that that would be dealt with. It's not in any way a reaction.

"Our own inspectors have done an assessment of the delivery of relationship and sexuality education. It has shown weaknesses."

Mr Bruton said the recent Belfast rape trial was not the reason for this review, 'that's not the motivation here'.

In the primary curriculum at the moment, there is no mention of sexual orientation or marriage equality, clearly they are now features of Irish life that should be reflected in the curriculum even at primary level.

On baptising children ahead of school enrollment, Richard Bruton said that he has always indicated that it was unfair that a child cannot access their local school because they are not of a particular religious denomination.

He pointed out that he is the first Minister for Education to address the issue; and did so once it was raised in the Dáil all parties recommended that it should be addressed.

"We have a problem here, what I'm trying to do is ensure that there's a balanced response, that we respect as fairly as possible the rights of the three groups."

Mr Bruton said he hoped to draft the necessary amendments before the summer recess.

He said his work has been carried out in a timely manner, it is a matter that is very sensitive and needs to strike a balance for the three interested groups, Catholics, minority religions and those with no religion.

On new regulation being in situ, Mr Bruton couldn't give a definite timeline.

This is dealing with a complex issue, there are complex constitutional rights here, I've dealt with it in a timely way when no previous minister had addressed it. There is no unnecessary delay being exercised here.

Earlier: 33% of parents unaware of content of sex education classes

By Niall Murray

Update 8.02am: More than one in three parents do not know what their children are learning in sex education classes, they have told school inspectors.

The revelation comes as Education Minister Richard Bruton announces a major review of relationship and sexuality education (RSE) in primary and second-level schools, which will focus on consent, contraception, and other issues.

However, he also wants information about the teaching of RSE in schools to be reflected in the parents and students charter that he said every school will be legally required to publish later this year.

The need to improve communication about RSE policies to parents was recommended by Department of Education chief inspector Harold Hislop’s recent report on issues highlighted from his staff’s work in schools from 2013 to 2016.

While communication generally with parents requires improvement, RSE emerged as an area in which it is particularly poor.

One in four parents of children in mainstream schools said they do not know the RSE policy, and another 12% (one in eight) said they have not been informed about it. “This indicates that there is a need for management to effectively communicate the details of this policy to parents,” Mr Hislop’s report read.

The review ordered by the minister is to form part of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s recently-initiated reviews of primary education and senior cycle at second-level.

As well as the content of the RSE curriculum, the council is to examine how sex education is taught, whether the entire curriculum is being delivered to a high standard, and if teachers have proper training and supports to talk to students about sexuality and relationships.

Some elements of RSE have not been updated in 20 years, and the minister believes the review will help inform decisions about the content of the curriculum and how it is taught.

“I want to ensure that the RSE curriculum meets the needs of young people today, who face a range of different issues to those faced by young people in the late 1990s,” he said.

A Solidarity private members’ bill to be debated in the Dáil later this month will seek to remove provisions from education law that could allow schools to restrict or change what is taught in RSE because of their religious ethos.

Irish Examiner

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

Home Delivery


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.