FF opposes Bill on factual sex education regardless of school’s ethos

Sex education in Ireland ‘in the dark ages’ says Solidarity TD Paul Murphy

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he was concerned that the Bill would result in changes to the ‘characteristic spirit of schools’. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he was concerned that the Bill would result in changes to the ‘characteristic spirit of schools’. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil will oppose legislation which provides for factual objective sex education without regard to the ethos of a school.

The party’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he was concerned that the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill would result in changes to the “characteristic spirit of schools” and had been drafted without consulting education partners.

Mr Byrne, whose party is divided on the abortion referendum, said that curriculum issues should not be set in legislation.

A number of rural Independent TDs also reject the legislation introduced by Solidarity People Before Profit but the Government and all other parties and groups will not oppose it when it is voted on in the Dáil on Thursday.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy who introduced the Bill said that “sex education in Ireland is in the dark ages”. Research by NUI Galway on smart consent showed that 76 per cent of students believed their school sex education left out a great deal of important information.

He said students were entitled to fact-based objective sex and relationship education regardless of a school’s ethos.

Mr Byrne insisted that Fianna Fáil supported the call from both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment “for improvements in sexual health and relationship education in schools, youth clubs and other settings”.

The Meath East TD said “we have a principled objection to this Bill on the basis that Ireland has never legislated in law for a curriculum of any type”.

He added: “We have never put in law what should be taught in our classes. We have left it to teachers and other experts to decide, and politicians have not got involved.”

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the curriculum had been set in the late 1990s and “it has now certainly been superseded by a lot of changes. For example, the revolution in access to the Internet is a dramatic change to the environment in which all delivery of education needs to be considered.”

He added that the changes in relation to marriage equality and in attitudes needed to be reflected.

And he said the “change in the definition of consent in recent years recognises changes in society and needs to be reflected accurately in the curriculum. The curriculum must be taught in an age-appropriate manner so that young people receive factual information appropriate to their age and stage of development.”

The Minister has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to review all aspects of sex and relationship education in primary and post-primary schools.