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28th Feb 2023

Parents can withdraw children from sex education, Minister Foley says

Ellen Fitzpatrick

The curriculum is coming in September.

Parents will now have the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes at both primary and second level, Minister for Education Norma Foley has said.

Parents will be allowed to do this if they do not agree with the content of updated sex education programmes.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is currently finalising an updated Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum and it is to be rolled out for junior cycle students from September.

This will address gender identity, pornography and sexual consent, among other issues.

The new curriculum will be ready for senior cycle in 2024 and for primary school students from 2025.

Ms Foley said: “I want to be clear around this: we operate in our schools a spirit of partnership with our parents, the wider section of stakeholders and partners within education. We retain within our schools parental consent at all times for parents to feel that they have freedom to withdraw their students from anything that is happening within a school environment.

“That is important. I know the value of that parental consent in schools, and I know the value of it in all other aspects of life.”

The news has gotten a mixed reaction from several parents’ groups, with the Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Association claiming the new curriculum will put an “explosive issue into the minds of young people”.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Cork’s Sexual Health Centre agrees that pornography should be part of the sex education curriculum as it promotes a healthy understanding of adult relationships and “it is a reality of modern living”.

Dr Martin Daveron told Newstalk: “When we think about ability to access good healthy relationships; it’s a strong sexual education curriculum that’s going to give us that and is going to enable young people to access good healthy relationships into the future.

“There is no point in avoiding [porn]. It is a reality of modern living and we need to enable young people to navigate it safely.”