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Inspections to ensure sex education is taught
Irish Examiner 14/03/2007

By Evelyn Ring

All secondary schools will be vetted from next year to ensure they teach sex education as new figures show one-in-10 ignore the subject totally. Despite being mandatory, a study commissioned by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and the Department of Education and Science, found an overcrowded, exam-oriented curriculum and the discomfort of some teachers in discussing the subject are among the reasons why students are missing out on vital life lessons.

It also found young people receive most of their information about sex from friends and the media, with boys attending single-sex schools most likely to be receiving little or no sex education. The study found 40% of schools are implementing the RSE programme very effectively, with a further 36% having moderate levels of implementation. However, 11% of schools stated they do not teach RSE at all in first and second year, increasing to 20% in third year, 30% in the fifth year and 33% by the final year of that cycle.

Recent research revealed that 17 was the average age those aged 18-25 first have sex at. Education Minister Mary Hanafin said while 90% of schools were implementing Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in some form she wanted to ensure tat all schools delivered the programme and to encourage consistency in how it was addressed. She said there would be school inspections from next September to ensure the subject was being taught. In the meantime, she would be reminding secondary schools of their obligation to teach RSE as a subject and ensuring consistency in how the subject was addressed.

Ms Hanafin said the RSE guidelines would be updated and reissued and a policy template developed around which schools could build in their own ehtos and policy. Materials for teachers would also be updated and lesson plans provided on some of the areas that schools had not been implementing. The lesson plans developed in conjunction with the Health Service Executive and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency would be linked to a DVD on the topics of contraception, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation.

Chief executive of the ISPCC, Paul Gilligan, welcomed the action being taken by the minister ensure sex and relationships was taught consistently at second level. "I think she is right because we have problems. There is a huge sexualisation of society and if children are not helped to understand amd make sense of that then they become very vulnerable," he warned. In 2006 the ISPCC Childline's telephone service received 20,794 calls relating to sexuality.