State urged to remove school ethos as barrier to sex education

Youth Work Ireland says current laws allow schools to omit key aspects of curriculum

Youth Work Ireland says its online survey of more than 1,300 young people shows a huge appetite for education on issues such as consent, the law and contraception. File photograph: iStock

Youth Work Ireland says its online survey of more than 1,300 young people shows a huge appetite for education on issues such as consent, the law and contraception. File photograph: iStock

 

The largest youth organisation in Ireland has launched a campaign urging the Government to remove religious ethos as a barrier to safe and inclusive sex education.

Youth Work Ireland says a survey of its members shows young people feel the subject as currently taught is not fit for purpose and does not address the needs of young people growing up in Ireland today.

It also says some pupils are denied access to objective sex education because of laws which entitle schools not to teach elements of the programme because of laws which protect their “characteristic spirit”.

The organisation says its online survey of more than 1,300 young people shows a huge appetite for education on issues such as consent, the law and contraception.

Dr Patrick Burke, chief executive of Youth Work Ireland, said it was clear there were serious issues around young people’s access to relationships and sexuality education in schools.

“We welcome the fact that young people from around the country in our organisation want to move things along much faster. They are particularly frustrated that the idea of a school’s ethos can impact on such an important area,” he said.

“They want to see this changed and are now going to campaign on that issue. This is the type of youth-led advocacy that youth services are facilitating today responding to real issues that young people raise, in a timely fashion to make an impact on decision-makers.”

The organisation has also launched a petition urging the Government to amend the Education Act 1998, which some argue allows schools to use their ethos as a barrier to teaching aspects of sex education.

The provision of sex education is being reviewed by the State’s advisory body on the school curriculum, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

It is understood that an unpublished review has found that many students, say their experience of sex education is too often “fear-based” and focuses almost exclusively on the risks and dangers of sexual activity or biological aspects of reproduction.