A report published this evening by the Oireachtas Education Committee says the Relationships and Sexuality Education taught in our schools is outdated, needs an overhaul, and that schools' ethos should not influence what is taught.

The report found that the current curriculum, introduced in 1999, needs to be changed "to give consideration to the significant welcome changes that have taken place in Ireland".

It expresses particular concern about the impact of shortcomings in current delivery on LGBTQI+ students, as well as those with intellectual disabilities.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently reviewing the programme on behalf of the Department of Education.

All schools are obliged to teach Relationships and Sexuality Education, but legislation allows the ethos of a school to influence how the programme is delivered.

A large majority of schools in Ireland are run by the Catholic Church.

The Education Committee recommends that outside groups that are brought in to schools to deliver Relationships and Sexuality Education, which will be regulated by the Department of Education or the Health Service Executive to ensure that accurate information is being given to students.

Groups, such as the Catholic bishops' marriage agency Accord, are regularly brought in to both primary and second level schools to teach the subject.

It recommends that the issue of consent should become an integral and fundamental part of all discussions on and reforms of the programme, as well as the negative impact of pornography and reproductive healthcare.

The committee heard that the issue of consent is currently "only touched upon" under the existing RSE programme.


Read: Current sex education 'a genuine disservice' to all, say students


It calls for clarity and direction from the Department of Education as to how religious-run schools and colleges should implement programmes so that all children and young people are treated equally.

The committee recommends that the RSE programme be updated to be fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ relationships and experiences, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

It said witnesses told them that the current RSE programme constructed heterosexual intercourse as the primary definition of sex, and was not inclusive of the experiences and sexual practices of those identifying as LGBTQI+.

The Education Committee has recommended that a specific curriculum for people with an intellectual disability "that is accessible and appropriate, and deals with sexuality and contraception" be developed "at the earliest possible date".

Disability organisation Inclusion Ireland told the committee of "taboos" that constantly surrounded the area of sexuality and intellectual disability. It warned of "a damaging preconception" that people with intellectual disabilities were "eternal children, devoid of sexuality".

The committee expressed particular concern that people with an intellectual disability who have sexual relationships were at a high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and were "much more likely to experience violence, including sexual violence, than their non-disabled peers".

The committee heard from a range of witnesses, including youth organisations, teacher trade unions, school managers, and agencies such as the Rape Crisis Centre.

It heard that the programme needed revision in order "to reflect international best practice, particularly in terms of contraceptive use, sexually transmitted infections, information around abortion, sexual orientation, gender identity, pornography, consent, psycho-sexual issues and gender equality".