The Department of Education has ordered a review of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in schools to take into account "the needs of young people today".

Among the areas it will examine are consent, and what it means, and developments in contraception.

The review will cover both the content of the curriculum, as well as its delivery in schools.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the review is timely as students are facing challenges that are dramatically different compared with students from 20 years ago.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, the minister said he believed it is it is important that students receive factual information in an age-appropriate manner and in association with parents.

He said most experts believe a teacher-led approach would be best and he hopes to improve supports for them.

The decision follows an "ancillary" recommendation by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, which called for a "thorough review of sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent".

The Citizens' Assembly also recommended improvements in the way RSE was delivered in schools.

Minister Bruton asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to consider a number of other areas in conducting its evaluation, including "healthy, positive sexual expression, safe use of the internet, and LGBTQ+ matters".

The minister also asked the NCCA to examine the experience and reality of RSE as it is delivered in schools.

Members of the Oireachtas committee expressed concern last December when Department of Education officials told them that while RSE was mandatory in schools, the ethos of the school could influence how the course content is delivered.

Speaking at a committee session dedicated to the issue, a Department of Education official explained that while family planning, sexual orientation, and sexually transmitted infections had to be explored at second-level, all this "could and should" take place "within the ethos and value system of the school".

In a statement announcing a review of the curriculum and its delivery, Minister Bruton said there needed to be more effective communication between schools and parents regarding the teaching of RSE in schools.

He said: "It is important that we review this area of learning to make sure that we are adequately providing information to students regarding sexuality and relationships through the curriculum.

"The RSE curriculum fulfils an important function. Every student has a right to access information about sexual health, relationships and sexuality, and this must be delivered in a factual manner in every school.

"This review will help to inform decisions regarding the content of the curriculum and how it is delivered. I want to ensure that the RSE curriculum meets the needs of young people today, who face a range of different issues to those faced by young people in the late 1990s."

Social, Personal and Health Education or SPHE is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and in the junior cycle.

It includes a mandatory relationships and sexuality education. The Department of Education said that RSE is required at all levels, from primary through to senior cycle.