Who is teaching your children about sex?

The agencies that are invited to schools

Bodywhys: the organisation highlights body image and self-esteem, helping to explore and challenge media stereotypes of beauty

Bodywhys: the organisation highlights body image and self-esteem, helping to explore and challenge media stereotypes of beauty


The Catholic marriage counselling agency runs the largest RSE school programme in Ireland. Last year Accord visited about 400 primary and secondary schools in the Dublin area, reaching about 27,000 students. Accord has programmes for fifth- and sixth-class primary pupils. In the secondary programme, facilitators discuss sex in the context of loving, committed relationships. They also discuss reproduction and STIs, and contraception if it arises, but the focus is on relationships. The facilitators get positive feedback from staff at other agencies, including the Irish Family Planning Association, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, and the LGBT group BeLonGTo, which trained Accord on working with young LGBT people. accord.ie.

This is a training programme for teachers and youth workers that looks at sexual violence, myths and laws around the issue, how young people can prevent sexual violence and be aware of their own rights to body space, and what is or is not appropriate in terms of sexuality. The programme is run by Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and has been delivered by 92 school staff at 71 second-level schools and 56 youth services since 2010. BodyRight is not a standalone programme but is integrated into existing social, personal and health education programmes. A schools outreach programme was in 52 schools in 2013; drcc.ie/bodyright- facilitators-training-programme.

Topics dealt with by Bodywhys, the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland, are not strictly part of the relationship and sexual education programme, but the organisation runs Be Body Positive, a school and youth-group programme on body image and self-esteem. The 70- to 80-minute programme provides information on eating disorders and helps to explore and challenge media stereotypes of beauty. One in four people who make contact with Bodywhys services is male. In 2013 the programme was delivered to 6,060 students at 62 Irish schools. Email youthdevelopment@bodywhys.ie.

This Catholic agency takes part in the HSE’s Positive Options programme, which promotes State-funded crisis-pregnancy counselling services with professional nondirective counsellors. In 2012 Cura visited 176 schools and delivered 162 hours of its schools awareness programme to about 6,200 students. Its school talk gives details of Cura’s crisis-pregnancy services, and uses scenarios and case studies to discuss with boys and girls what they would do if they became pregnant. All crisis-pregnancy options, including abortion, are discussed. Facilitators are trained crisis-pregnancy counsellors. cura.ie.

Irish Family Planning Association


has a comprehensive school education programme on relationships and sexual health. Using a facilitative model, it discusses informed choice, safe and consensual sex, contraception, and STIs and how to avoid them. It focuses on the pressures facing young people and building up self-esteem to ensure sex is delayed until a young person is ready; bodily integrity is also central. Students are informed about the association’s services; ifpa.ie.

Life Pregnancy Care
Part-funded by HSE Positive Options, Life Pregnancy Care has a school outreach programme that looks at crisis pregnancy and the impact on those involved, to help students make informed choices about crisis pregnancy. The organisation says it is nondenominational and nonadvocacy; school talks give students details of its services. Last week one student described a school presentation with detailed accounts of abortion, and said the speaker told students that women’s mental and physical health could be severely damaged by abortion. Life Pregnancy Care did not rebut the student’s statement; life.ie.

Love for Life
Based in Northern Ireland, Love for Life has an “abstinence-plus” model of sex education, promoting abstinence but also discussing contraception. Love for Life has delivered programmes to 31,825 pupils at 124 secondary and 120 primary schools, primarily in Northern Ireland. It says it has visited about a dozen schools in the Republic of Ireland, in Cork, Roscommon and Leitrim.

A three-hour second-level programme looks at a range of issues, including “the journey of the baby from conception to death”; the problems facing teenagers, including bullying, school pressure, cigarettes and alcohol, puberty, media awareness, self-respect, relationships and sex; loveforlife.org.uk.

Pure in Heart
Pure in Heart advises students not to have sex before marriage. It is in the same building as the Iona Institute and describes itself as “an international Catholic movement of young adults who through prayer and friendship strive to learn, live and share the truth, beauty and meaning of human sexuality”. Contraception and homosexuality are not discussed; pureinheartireland.com.

Schemes funded by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme:

(formerly Pact) has an RSE programme for schools in Dublin, Cavan and Wicklow.
Real Deal is a peer-led sexual-health education programme for schools in Leinster and Co Mayo. Email bf.realdeal@gmail.com.
SouthWest Counselling Centre, Kerry delivers healthy-sexuality workshops to senior-cycle students.

Regional sexual-health centres

Dublin Aids Alliance, Aids West and Cork and Kerry Sexual Health Centre, among others, provide sexual-health and contraception talks to schools in their areas. Cork and Kerry Sexual Health Centre has given 107 workshops at 46 schools. The school programme is similar to that of the Irish Family Planning Association.

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