In this policy document all references to gender are taken to be inclusive and the term “parent” is taken to include “guardian”.
Our School Philosophy
As a Loreto Catholic Secondary School we strive to be a community in which learning and teaching can take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.
Our aims are:
- To provide a safe and happy environment in which each student can achieve her full potential.
- To ensure that each student knows that she is respected and valued.
- To encourage high standards while at the same time affirming and appreciating diversity of gifts and goals.
- To allow staff to work in a safe and happy environment and to support their professional development.
Definition of Relationships and Sexuality Education
RSE is a developmental process through experiential learning in which pupils participate to help cultivate a healthy attitude towards themselves and others, particularly in the area of sexuality and relationships.
Relationships and Sexuality Education within Social Personal and Health Education
The Draft Guidelines for RSE (NCCA, June 1995, 1.2) state that Social Personal and Health Education is “developmental in nature and age appropriate in content and methodology”. The RSE programme is designed to follow this principle and pattern. Apart from the specific lessons of RSE, SPHE 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 deals with many issues such as self esteem, assertiveness, communication and decision making skills – all of which can contribute to the effectiveness of the RSE programme.
In this school we teach aspects of RSE in any subject in which they form part of the syllabus as laid down by the Department of Education and Skills.
In the event of a teacher wishing to introduce a module on RSE where it does not form part of a syllabus it is advised that a suitable recognised and educationally sound programme be followed. This programme should be agreed with the Principal in advance of teaching beginning. Parents should be notifies about such modules in advance of the programme beginning.
The aims of our Relationships and Sexuality Education Programme
Relationships and sexuality education which is located in the overall framework of Social, Personal and Health Education, has as its specific aims:
- To help pupils understand and develop friendships and relationships.
- To promote an understanding of sexuality.
- To promote a positive attitude to one’s own sexuality and in one’s relationship with others.
- To promote knowledge of and respect for reproduction.
- To enable pupils to develop attitudes and values toward their sexuality in a moral, spiritual and social framework in keeping with the policy of the school.
- 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.
Guidelines for the Management and Organisation of Relationships and Sexuality Education in Our School
Arrangements regarding the teaching of the programme and the deployment of staff will be made by the Principal.
Informing and Involving Parents:
Parents are the primary educators of their children and their role in education concerning relationships and sexuality is seen by the school as very important.
If an outside speaker is to be invited to the school to speak on RSE it is our policy to post a letter giving details of such an event to the parents involved giving them sufficient time to contact the school either to seek clarification or to withdraw their daughter from the session.
The school’s function is to provide a general education about sexual matters and issues and not to offer individual advice or information on aspects of sexual behaviour and contraception. Sources of professional information and advice will be identified when appropriate. Teachers may provide pupils with education and information about where and from whom they can receive confidential sexual advice and treatment, e.g. their doctor or other suitable agency. Advice offered should not be directive and should be appropriate to the age of the pupil.
It may not be appropriate to deal with some explicit questions in class. Teachers may choose to say that it is not appropriate to deal with that question at this time. If a teacher becomes concerned about a matter that has been raised he/she should seek advice from the Principal. When deciding whether or not to answer questions the teacher should consider the age and readiness of the students, the RSE programme content, the ethos of the school and the RSE policy.
It is school policy that in circumstances where a pupil is considered at some risk of any type of abuse, the teacher must refer this immediately to the Principal. The Principal will decide whether to inform the parents and/or appropriate authorities.
The following is also school policy:
- Teachers must not promise absolute confidentiality;
- Pupils must be made aware that any incident may be conveyed to the Principal and possibly to parents if the Principal decides that it is in the best interests of the pupil to notify parents;
- Teachers must use their professional judgement to decide whether confidence can be maintained having heard the information;
- Teachers must indicate clearly to pupils when the content of a conversation can no longer be kept confidential – the pupil can then decide whether to proceed.
The Child Protection Guidelines for Post Primary schools state in 4.1.1. and 4.2.1.
4.1.1. If a member of staff receives an allegation or has a suspicion that a child may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse he/she should, without delay, report the matter to the Designated Liaison Person in that school. A written record of the report should be made and placed in a secure location by the Designated Liaison Person. The need for confidentiality at all times, as previously referred to in Chapter 1 Paragraph 1.2 of these guidelines, should be borne in mind. The supports of the school should continue to be made available to the child.
4.2.1 If the Designated Liaison Person is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion or allegation he/she should report the matter to the relevant health board immediately.
Withdrawing pupils from the RSE programme:
Whenever it is planned to teach aspects of RSE apart from that which is laid out in the syllabi of various subjects this information will be relayed to parents by post, allowing them enough time to contact the school if they wish to withdraw their daughter. Parents do not have to give reasons for withdrawal, but we respectfully invite them to do so – sometimes we can then resolve misunderstandings.
Using visiting speakers
- It is school policy that most of the RSE programme is best delivered by teachers who are known and trusted by the pupils. However visitors can enhance the quality of the provision as long as they are used in addition to, not instead of a planned programme of RSE.
- It is important to verify the credentials of visiting speakers to the school especially in the sensitive area of RSE.
- The SPHE coordinator will provide the visitor with a copy of this RSE policy. After gaining approval from the Principal for the visit the organiser makes the visitor aware of the ethos of the school and the manner of delivery of the RSE programme.
- Issues to consider are:
- The degree of explicitness of the content and presentation;
- Will the visitor be accompanied by teaching staff, if not the visitor should have the appropriate training to deal with groups of young people.
- How will the visit be built upon and followed up?
- Visitors should be given advance notice of the composition of the class especially if any issues are likely to be highly sensitive for particular students.
- The Office should be informed of the date and name of the visitor.
It is inevitable that homosexuality will be discussed during a programme of sex education. One of the advantages of exploring issues concerning homosexuality is the opportunity to correct false ideas, assumptions and address prejudice. Discussion of homosexuality should be appropriate to the age of the pupils.
This topic will be dealt with in an age appropriate, open manner, looking at all sides of the issue.
Children with special needs may need more help than others in coping with the physical and emotional aspects of growing up; they may also need more help in learning what sorts of behaviour are and are not acceptable, and in being warned and prepared against abuse by others.
Ongoing support, development and review Training
All teachers involved in this work do not necessarily have to be ‘experts’ on the issues concerned. The school will facilitate teachers to obtain expert training in this field bearing in mind the overall budgetary framework.
The school will purchase appropriate RSE teaching materials which have been identified by staff as useful and which have been approved by the Principal, within the normal budgetary framework and as general school resources allow.
Monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the RSE programme:
We are committed to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of this
programme. Specifically important to the RSE Programme are:
- a) Pupil feedback;
- b) Staff review and feedback;
- c) Parental feedback.
Ratification Date: 7th May 2013