Wilson's Hospital School

Relationships and Sexuality Education

National Curriculum Provision in Our School:

1. Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

Link to NCCA and Department of Education-approved SPHE Junior Cycle Specification (2023):

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Early adolescence is a time of significant change for young people, physically, emotionally and socially. Through the use of experiential methodologies and group work, students have the dedicated space and time in this short course to develop their understanding and skills to learn about themselves, to care for themselves and others and to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing in a rapidly changing world.

In SPHE, students have opportunities to revisit different themes which focus on developing self-awareness and respect for others, and the skills of self-management, communication, coping, decision-making and relating to others. This spiral approach of revisiting key ideas and topics is familiar from existing approaches to SPHE. This new course builds on this approach but also emphasises the importance of student agency and engagement in the learning process as key to learning in the affective domain. The 7 skills involved are vital for self-fulfilment, for living in communities and for full engagement in learning beyond SPHE. Personal reflection, resilience and empathy are also promoted through SPHE.

Relationships and sexuality education (RSE) is important for young people at this stage of their lives. They are exposed to a lot of information about relationships and sex from informal sources, the media and online. SPHE provides the context within which young people can learn about important physical, social, emotional and moral issues around relationships, sexual health, sexuality and gender identity, including where to get reliable information from trusted sources.

It is important to build on students’ learning in SPHE in primary education also. Learning in SPHE is essentially supported by a positive, empowering whole school environment and relevant school policies/guidelines including RSE, anti-bullying and substance-use policies, and child protection guidelines. This broader context for learning in SPHE helps to ensure that students learn to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing. These decisions are further supported and encouraged by school, community and national policies and guidelines.

2. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)

Link to NCCA and Department of Education-approved SPHE Senior Cycle Curriculum Framework:

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  • Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is an Area of Learning within the SPHE Curriculum Framework at Senior Cycle.

  • In Transition Year, in Form 5 and in Form 6 there is a module of RSE for 6 weeks which forms part of the Life Skills Programme.

  • It is important to provide RSE within the realms of SPHE and Guidance to achieve a common approach to the programme and its delivery. This ensures that each student has an opportunity of participating in it irrespective of subject choice.

  • The RSE programme is designed to follow this principle and pattern. Apart from the specific lessons of RSE, SPHE at Senior Cycle covers other areas which would be pertinent to the development of a healthy attitude to sexuality in oneself and one’s relationship with others. SPHE at Senior Cycle deals with many issues such as self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing, assertiveness, communication and decision-making skills – all of which can contribute to the effectiveness of the RSE programme.

  • In all aspects of SPHE and RSE, our school’s Core Values, Ethos and the teachings of the Church of Ireland – with an emphasis on inclusivity and individual responsibility – will be promoted. However, parents may seek to exclude their children but this would be discussed with them in relation to the issue of child protection.

Relationships and Sexuality Education in Our School

All schools in Ireland are required to deliver all aspects of the RSE curriculum, including those in relation to sexual orientation, contraception, sexually transmitted infections etc. We acknowledge the Christian values and ethos of our school while at the same time facilitating students in discussing a range of views in relation to the topics within the RSE programme.

Provision of RSE in Our School

  • In Junior Cycle, RSE is situated as a component within SPHE which is delivered in one class per week over the three years.

  • RSE is currently delivered over a 6-week module to TY, 5th and 6th year students.

The Aims of Our RSE Programme:

Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) aims to provide age-appropriate opportunities for young people to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way.

The school recognises that parents/guardians are the primary educators and home is the natural environment in which RSE should take place.

Spiritual, moral and ethical issues will arise when teaching RSE. The school’s RSE policy guides teachers in the treatment of such issues in accordance with the core values and ethos of the school.

Our RSE programme aims:

  1. To enhance the personal development, self-esteem and wellbeing of the child.
  2. To help pupils understand and develop friendships and relationships.
  3. To promote an understanding of sexuality.
  4. To promote a positive attitude to one’s own sexuality and in one’s relationship with others.
  5. To promote knowledge of and respect for reproduction.
  6. To enable pupils to develop attitudes and values towards their sexuality in a moral, spiritual and social framework in keeping with the policy of the school.
  7. To provide opportunities for pupils to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way.

It is acknowledged that in a course of limited duration these aims are aspirational. RSE should enable our students to:

  • Acquire the understanding and skills necessary to form healthy friendships and relationships
  • Develop a positive sense of self-awareness, and the skills for building and maintaining self-esteem
  • Become aware of the variety of ways in which individuals grow and change especially during adolescence and to develop respect for difference between individuals.
  • Understand human physiology with particular reference to the reproductive cycle, human fertility and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Understand sexual development and identity and explore aspects of sexuality including sex roles, stereotyping, gender issues and cultural influences on sexuality.
  • Value family life and appreciate the responsibilities of parenthood.
  • Develop strategies for decisions and actions consistent with moral integrity and respectful of the rights and dignity of others.
  • Develop skills for coping with peer pressure, conflict and threats to personal safety.

Some of these objectives will be supported by the Science Department and Religious Education Department in all years, by the broader curriculum and the whole school climate, cognisant of our mission statement, characteristic spirit, core values, ethos and teachings of the Church of Ireland.

Junior Cycle RSE (1st, 2nd and 3rd Year)

This module is designed to develop communication and decision-making skills in relationships.

  • To look at the causes of conflict in relationships.
  • Explore some aspect of sex stereotyping.
  • Give young people knowledge of the physical, emotional and psychological changes related to adolescence.
  • Have a clear understanding of male and female reproductive systems and the development stages from conception to birth.
  • To emphasise the three 'R's, respect, rights and responsibility.

Senior Cycle RSE (Transition Year, 5th and 6th Year)

Development of Themes from Junior Cycle RSE

Human Growth and Development

  • Understanding the structure and function of the sex organs
  • Awareness of fertility
  • Awareness of the importance and methods of family planning
  • Understanding of pregnancy and the development of the foetus
  • Appreciation of the importance of health care during pregnancy
  • Recognising the range of human emotions and the ways to deal with these.
  • An understanding of the relationship between safe sexual practice and sexually transmitted diseases.

Human Sexuality

  • Understanding of what it means to be male or female
  • Consideration of male and female roles in relationships and in society
  • Exploration of some of the issues pertaining to equality
  • Understanding the concept of sexual harassment and its different forms
  • Awareness of sexual abuse and rape, including legal issues and the identification of help agencies in these areas.
  • Skills for making choices about sexual activity
  • Exploration of the range of attitudes, values and beliefs regarding sexual behaviour in modern society

Human Relationships

  • Understanding the nature of peer pressure
  • Development skills for resolving conflict
  • Development of an awareness of the complex nature of love and loving relationships
  • Understanding marriage as a loving commitment
  • Deeper awareness of the importance of family life

The school's RSE Policy:

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Parents' Constitutional Rights and the Right to Withdraw from RSE Instruction:

Written requests for the removal of a student from class during the RSE module should be made to the Head of the SPHE Department, Ms Maria O'Reilly, at moreilly@whs.ie

What we do if a request for withdrawal from the RSE programme is made by a Parent/guardian:

  1. We respect the constitutionally enshrined position of the parent as the primary educator

  2. We discuss the nature of the concerns with the child’s parent and if appropriate attempt to reassure them

  3. We consider whether the programme can be amended or improved in a way that will reassure parents - care is taken not to undermine the integrity of the RSE programme and the entitlement of the other pupils

  4. We attempt to ensure that where a pupil is withdrawn there is no disruption to other parts of their education

  5. We point out that pupils who have been withdrawn are vulnerable to teasing - we therefore attempt to cause minimal embarrassment to the pupil and minimal disruption to the programme

  6. We also point out that pupils may receive inaccurate information from their peers

  7. We offer the parents access to appropriate information and resources

  8. We will provide supervision for a pupil who is withdrawn.

Wilson's Hospital School
Heathland, Co. Westmeath, N91 AX97, Ireland
044 937 1115
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