Report sees ‘challenge’ in allowing children opt out of RSE

Allowing children to opt out of an updated Junior Cycle sex education syllabus dealing with issues such as pornography and gender identity may prove a challenge that could pit students’ rights against the rights of parents, according to a consultation report.

The comments are contained in a public consultation document by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) on its proposed revamp of the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum for Junior Cycle pupils.

The report noted a wide spectrum of parents’ views, some of whom stated their intent to withdraw their children from all SPHE classes in the event of the full revised specification being implemented.

It says that the challenge of dealing with requests for withdrawal from specific aspects of the new curriculum, or complete opt-out, will require further consideration given that relationships and sex education is now integrated across SPHE.

It said one dimension of this tension is “students’ right to a broad and balanced education, including comprehensive health education, balanced against the right of parents to withdraw their child from SPHE”.