THE DEPARTMENT OF Education has said that under the new Junior Certificate reforms the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment are currently developing a new short course on relationships and sexuality education.
The department confirmed to TheJournal.ie, that as part of the reforms the “approach to relationships and sexuality education is changing at junior cycle” adding that a new short course as part of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) will be delivered in September 2014.
It will also involve an increase in the time allocation for SPHE at Junior Cycle from 60 to 100 hours.
In addition to these changes, a new short course will also be available in Digital Media Literacy where a student’s learning activity would include “development of a charter of online rights and responsibilities that define acceptable use of digital technologies in the school”.
While the department states that SPHE and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) deal with sexual education issues such as “sexting” already, changes are being made to the current course.
The department stated that the accessing of pornography on mobiles phone is “primarily an issue for parents in the first instance, as parents are the primary educators of their children,” but said schools can complement the role of parents and help ensure that children have the essential “life skills” that will enable them to address a range of difficult issues – “including knowing what is appropriate and what is inappropriate, and can include personal safety, bullying, and substance use,” they said.
Social, Personal and Health Education
They added that this is something that is addressed at both SPHE and RSE level.
The changes are being brought about under the new ‘Well-being’ principle which is underpinned in the new reforms, says the department.
The aim is the student experience will “contribute to their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being and resilience. Learning takes place in a climate focused on collective well-being of school, community and society”.
They stated that “young people face a range of challenges and opportunities both within and outside of school” involving issues relating to relationships and sexuality but may also encompass other important areas such as substance use, bullying and mental health.
“Under the new Junior Cycle Framework, pupils will be provided with opportunities to acquire the relevant skills of ‘managing myself’, ‘staying well’, and ‘communicating’. One element of ‘staying well’ is being responsible, safe and ethical in using digital technology,” they said. The development of these skills aims to enable pupils to address the challenges they face and adapt their skills to different contexts.
As part of the new Junior Cycle Framework, schools will be given the flexibility to determine how best to ensure that their pupils fulfill the principles, statements of learning and skills.
Schools may therefore choose to implement the new short course in SPHE that is being developed by the NCCA, or they may choose to continue to use existing courses or other approaches.
New SPHE lesson plans on personal safety for junior cycle students will be rolled out to schools, through in-service training for relevant teachers, in the coming months.
Through these lesson plans students are afforded an opportunity to examine their attitudes and values and are reminded of good online safety practices, the department said in a statement.
New lesson plans on personal safety are also currently being developed for senior cycle SPHE. These will build on the junior cycle lesson plans but will also include information that is age appropriate to senior cycle students.
It is envisaged that these lesson plans will be available for the start of the next school year.
Revisions are also being made to the Child Abuse Prevention Programme (CAPP) or Stay Safe programme. The current programme is delivered to primary school children from Junior Infants through to 6th class and is there to enhance children’s self-protective skills by participation in lessons on safe and unsafe situations, bullying, inappropriate touch, secrets, telling and stranger danger.
The revised programme will address new forms of risk, including cyber bullying and incorporate new research and best practice in the area of safeguarding children as well as developments in terms of policies, provision and curriculum.
As part of the updating of the Stay Safe programme, feedback is currently being invited from parents and teachers to identify issues that they would like to see included in the revised programme.