Education Minister McHugh has strongly hit out at a “fake news” campaign which suggested four-year-olds would be taught about masturbation as part of a new sex education curriculum.
He said such a campaign was utterly misleading.
“I think the campaign was dangerous. It was disinformation. And ultimately, it was fake news for highlighting those scaremongering aspects of something that wasn't realized,” he said.
“There's nothing in the report that says that. There's a complete emphasis and care and consideration given around age appropriateness, the development of the child.
"The feedback from young people themselves, and young people take a very responsible position on this, is that in the primary sector there is a certain introduction to this very sensitive conversation, but it's completely different to the conversations you have at a later stage in secondary school,” he added.
Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings, the minister said it is his intention to instruct the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to develop guidelines in time for the start of the new school year in September.
Mr McHugh said the report showed that from the student feedback, it was clear that the students feel there's an inadequacy around the teaching of Sexual Education at present.
The minister said his approach is about breaking down the uncomfortableness in dealing with this subject.
“I'm a parent and I can talk on behalf of me as a parent, I still have a certain uncomfortableness around this conversation at home, and in this report, you're saying the same. So we need to have a support system that helps us study language that helps us through these conversations.
Following the release of a report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education in primary and post-primary schools on Wednesday, Mr McHugh said any curriculum change will require, obviously, careful consideration, but more fundamental to that is the age appropriateness of the material.
In relation to the ethos, he said the Government is “very, very anxious” to ensure that the ethos of the school is central to any curriculum or any curriculum change in this regard. And that's something that will remain Central.
The ethos will will be protected.Every school ethos, you know, has a different approach to this. But we we want to embed in this that not a directive that every school has to follow a certain specific analysis of how we treat this subject.