The following extract is taken from the NCCA’s Report on the Review of RSE in primary and post-primary schools and provides a summary of what students told us about their needs.
There is unanimous agreement among students about the importance of RSE. They want schools to provide comprehensive, relevant and age-appropriate RSE throughout all stages of education. Within both primary and post-primary contexts, students are unhappy with RSE that focuses mainly on biological facts (for primary students ‘the talk’ and for post-primary students, information on conception, contraception, STIs) and fails to provide opportunities to discuss the emotional aspects of growing up and forming healthy relationships. They also observe an emphasis on the risks and dangers associated with relationships and sexual activity at the expense of exploring the healthy, positive or enjoyable aspects. Students want a safe and inclusive environment where they can discuss, ask questions and talk about all aspects of relationships and sexuality. They want more than scientific information and facts (which they say they can access readily). Older students spoke about the need to discuss ‘real-world’ topics openly and honestly within the context of rights and responsibilities, attitudes and values (with respect being most frequently mentioned). Across all ages, students felt that lessons were often ‘babyish’ and ‘out of touch’ with their needs. Furthermore, they remarked that they find lessons in RSE overly repetitive, with themes such as bullying and alcohol revisited from year to year without suitable progression being built in. The top three topics which post primary students expressed a desire to learn more about were LGBTQ+ and sexual orientation, healthy relationships and consent.
For students, the key enabler to a quality experience of RSE is the teacher. Students recognise the importance of a teacher who is comfortable and confident in teaching the subject, has a good relationship with the students, and can facilitate learning in a positive and participative manner.