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Report: Teen Sex Education 'Inconsistent'
Irish Examiner 14/03/2007

by Evelyn Ring

The Government is failing to give young people the information they need on sex and relationships to allow them to make better choices, Fine Gael's Olwyn Enright claimed yesterday. The party spokeswoman on education was commentating on a new study which found that teenagers are being taught about sex in a patchy and inconsistent fashion and some are not being taught at all.

Relationship and Sexuality Education(RSE), part of the Social Personal and Health education programme (SPHE), was introduced as a mandatory subject in 1995. The study that examined how schools deal with RSE found that 11% of schools do not teach it at all in first or second year.

One-in-five of the 197 schools included in the study did not teach the subject in third year. The figure increased to 30% in the first year of the Leaving Certificate cycle and 33% in the final year. And boys in single-sex schools were least likely to receive sex education, according to the study. Ms Enright said young people needed to be aware of how their bodies worked so they could understand the risk of prognancies and sexually transmitted infections associated with unsafe sexual activities. Ms Enright said allowing some teenagers to go through their education without access to a programme on sex and relationships was irresponsible.

"If young people don't have the information, then how can they make the best choices regarding their own lives," she said. Ms Hanafin said that while 90% of schools were implementing RSE in some form, challenges remained. She wanted to ensure that every school delivered the programme and promote consistency in how content was addressed. Ms Hanafin said inspectors would be visiting every secondary school from September to ensure RSE was being implemented.

The study, commissioned by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) and the Department of Education and Science, found that 40% of schools are implementing the RSE very effectively and a further 36% have moderate levels of implementation. The programme also found that it was most effective in schools where principals ensure that a policy is developed, a programe coordinator appointed and staff released for training.

CPA chairwoman, Katharine Bulbulia, said young people consistently report that they are not receiving comprehensive sex education at school. And, she said, the need for young people to learn to deal with sexual feelings and emotions was never greater with recent research showing that 17 was the average of first sex among 18 to 25 year olds. "We have to ensure that all teenagers get comprehensive sex education on sexual feelings, safer sex, contaception and sexually transmitted diseases before they beocme sexually active so that they can make informed, responsible decisions in relation to their sexual and emotional health," said Ms Bulbulia.