Coláiste an Átha

Relationships and Sexuality Education Policy

1. School

2. Our school philosophy

3. Definition of Relationships and Sexuality Education

4. Relationships and Sexuality Education in Coláiste an Átha

5. Guidelines for the Management and Organisation of Relationships and Sexuality   Education in Our School

6. Ongoing support and development

7. Review and Evaluation

Appendix 1: What we do if a request for withdrawal from the RSE programme is made by a parent:

Appendix 2: Visitors to post-primary schools: guidelines

1. School.

Coláiste an Átha is an inter-denominational college under the management of County Wexford VEC.  The principal is responsible for the day to day management of the school.  The Board of Management comprises of VEC members, parent representatives and staff representatives, who meet statutorily twice over the school term.

2. Our school philosophy

“Coláiste an Átha is dedicated to providing a quality education in a caring & supportive environment where the holistic development of each individual student is nurtured.”

It is in this context that the RSE Policy operates. The SPHE/RSE Department has as its mission, the giving of expression to the whole person. This is achieved by facilitating the personal, educational and vocational development of the student. Relationships and Sexuality Education aims to be an integral part of the process of developmental learning in Coláiste an Átha, Kilmuckridge, Wexford.  As such the whole school community actively supports the benefits that such a service provides. We endeavour to adopt a person centred approach and to accept each of our students in their own right within the context of the student body in Coláiste an Átha, Kilmuckridge, Wexford. The enhancement of self-esteem and life skills and the development of potential-academic, personal and emotional, leading to greater personal autonomy for all students are its central goals.

3. Definition of relationships and sexuality education
RSE is a developmental process through experiential learning in which students participate to help cultivate a healthy attitude towards themselves and others, particularly in the area of sexuality and relationships.

4. Relationships and Sexuality Education in Coláiste an Átha

Relationships and sexuality education (RSE) is taught in junior cycle as a module within the social, personal and health education (SPHE) programme. In senior cycle RSE is taught within the religious education programme for at least 6 lessons.

The draft guidelines for RSE (NCCA, June 1995, 1.2) state that social personal and health education is “spiral, 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 in one’s relationships 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.

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 students 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 students to develop attitudes and values toward their sexuality in a moral, spiritual and social framework in keeping with the ethos of the school
  • To provide opportunities for students to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way

Relationships and Sexuality Education Programme in our school

Junior Cycle RSE Learning Outcomes

1ST Year

  • have an appreciation of their personal talents and those of others
  • have explored some aspects of sex stereotyping
  • have a knowledge of the physical, emotional and psychological changes related to adolescence
  • have a clear understanding of the male and female reproductive systems
  • be sensitive to the need for respect for one’s own sexuality and the sexuality of others

2ND Year

  • have a knowledge of the developmental stages from conception to birth
  • have a heightened awareness of the emotional aspects of a range of relationships
  • have analysed some of the influences that shape views of sexuality
  • have developed their skills for communicating in relationships
  • have further developed their decision-making skills
  • be aware of the potential for danger in forming new relationships
  • have a basic knowledge of sexually transmitted disease
  • have a knowledge of some help agencies and their role

3rd Year

  • have practised communication skills and skills for enhancing self-esteem
  • have reviewed their understanding of the adolescent stage of human growth and development
  • have identified and recognised the importance of respect, rights and responsibilities in relationships
  • be aware of the causes of conflict in relationships
  • be prepared to deal with such situations of conflict

Senior Cycle RSE Learning Outcomes:

Human Growth and Development

  • understanding the function and structure of sex organs
  • awareness of fertility
  • awareness of the importance and methods of family planning
  • understanding of pregnancy and the development of the foetus
  • appreciation of the importance of health care during pregnancy
  • recognising the range of human emotions and ways to deal with these
  • an understanding of the relationship between safe sexual practice and sexually transmitted diseases with particular reference to HIV/AIDS

Human Sexuality

  • Understanding of what it means to be male or female
  • consideration of male and female roles in relationship and in society
  • awareness and understanding of sexual orientations
  • exploration of some of the issues pertaining to equality
  • understanding the concept of sexual harassment and its different forms
  • awareness of sexual abuse and rape, including legal issues and the identification of help agencies in these areas
  • skills for making choices about sexual activity
  • exploration of the range of attitudes, values and beliefs regarding sexual behaviour in modern society

Human Relationships

  • understanding the nature of peer pressure
  • developing skills for resolving conflict
  • development of an awareness of the complex nature of love and loving relationships
  • understanding marriage as a loving commitment
  • deeper awareness of the importance of family life

5. Guidelines for the Management and Organisation of Relationships and Sexuality   Education in Coláiste an Átha

Arrangements regarding the teaching of the programme and the deployment of staff are 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. Relevant sections of this RSE policy will be included in the school’s newsletter published each term. This policy has been designed in consultation with Parents’ Association representatives and the views expressed by parents will be taken into account when reviewing the policy. Parents will be informed by letter prior to RSE programmes being taught to their son/daughter. A copy of this policy will be made available to any parent on request to the school office or via the website of the school.

Offering advice

The school’s function is to provide a general education about sexual matters and issues. If issues arise as a result of the teaching of RSE, support will be provided to individual students through the pastoral care system in the school. Teachers may provide students 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 student.

Explicit questions

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 advice will be sought from the SPHE co-ordinator or 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.


The school’s understanding of confidentiality is in accordance with the definitions of confidentiality outlined in the Child Protection Procedures 2012. All students and parents will be made aware of the limits of confidentiality and of the procedures that will be followed following a disclosure. Please see appendix 3.

It is school policy that in circumstances where a pupil is considered at some risk of any type of abuse or in breach of the law, the teacher must refer this immediately to the principal who is the Designated Liaison Person as required under the Child Protection Procedures. The principal will decide whether to inform the parents and/or appropriate authorities, this is the policy of the school and may arrange for counselling.

  • Teachers must not promise absolute confidentiality;
  • Students 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 student to notify parents.
  • Students will be made aware of the pastoral care structures in the school and of the roles and responsibilities of the individual members of the pastoral care team.
  • Students will be made aware of the counselling services available in the school. The school has one guidance counsellor who is available to provide support and advice to students who may wish to avail of their services.

Withdrawing students from the RSE programme:

  • Parents will be informed of the right to withdraw their son from the RSE part of the SPHE programme. If a parent wishes to withdraw their son/daughter they will be invited by the school to discuss the matter.
  • Parents do not have to give reasons for withdrawal, but we respectfully invite them to do so – sometimes we can then resolve misunderstandings. Once a parent’s request to withdraw is made, that request will be complied with until revoked by the parent. (see also appendix 1)

Using visiting speakers and others

It is school policy that the RSE programme is best taught by teachers who are known and trusted by the students. 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. An evaluation by students and staff must take place following a guest speaker.

Please see appendix 1.


Teachers do not promote any one life-style as the only acceptable one for society and therefore it is inevitable and natural 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 students.


This topic will be dealt with in an age appropriate, open manner, looking at all sides of the issues in a non-directive way.

Special needs

Students with special educational needs may require 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. They may also need some extra help in understanding some of the terminology used.

6. Ongoing support and development


  • All teachers involved in this work do not necessarily have to be ‘experts’ on the issues concerned. However, they do require sensitivity to the needs of the group, an ability to deal with questions openly/honestly and to be prepared to refer to more expert advice if necessary. The skills acquired in general teaching apply also to health education. Some teachers have expert training in the specific areas of health, relationships and sexuality education and will be encouraged to train other teachers.
  • The school will facilitate teachers to obtain expert training in this field, bearing in mind, the overall budgetary framework and the need for the ongoing teaching and learning programme of the school to continue with as little disturbance as possible.

7. Review and Evaluation

Participating teachers of SPHE/RSE will meet at least once a term to evaluate and review the programme.  SPHE/RSE policy is agreed by staff and ratified by the Board of Management.

It will be reviewed annually.

Appendix 1:

What we do if a request for withdrawal from the RSE programme is made by parent/guardian:

  • We discuss the nature of the concerns with the students parent/guardian and if appropriate attempt to reassure them (initially such discussion takes place at a meeting with the Year Head and SPHE Co-ordinator, the Principal may become involved if necessary)
  • We consider whether the programme can be amended or improved in a way that will reassure parents – care is taken not to undermine the integrity of the RSE programme and the entitlement of the other students.
  • We attempt to ensure that where a student is withdrawn there is no disruption to other parts of their education,
  • We point out that students who have been withdrawn are vulnerable to teasing – we therefore attempt to cause minimal embarrassment to the student and minimal disruption to the programme;
  • We also point out that students may receive inaccurate information from their peers;
  • We offer the parents access to appropriate information and resources.

Appendix 2:


If schools wish to enhance or supplement SPHE/RSE by inviting visitors to the classroom precise criteria must apply. Outside facilitators who contribute to the SPHE/RSE programme can play a valuable role in supplementing, complementing and supporting a planned, comprehensive and established SPHE/RSE programme. Any such visitor or visiting group should adhere to the guidelines of good practice as set out in the SPHE Handbook Section 7 and which are condensed herewith:

• Visitors to the classroom or school, particularly those engaging directly with students, should be aware of relevant school policies including the school’s child protection policy, RSE policy and substance misuse policy. Any such visit must be carefully planned in advance in line with the relevant whole-school SPHE/RSE programme(s) and policies.

• Talks/programmes delivered by outside agencies or speakers must be consistent with and complementary to the school’s ethos and SPHE/RSE programme. Visits should be planned, researched and implemented in partnership with school personnel.

• Relevant teachers need to liaise with and be involved with all visitors and external agencies working with the school and the whole staff needs to be made aware of same.

• It is strongly recommended that parents should be consulted and made aware of any such visiting people or agencies to classrooms / schools.

• The school’s SPHE/RSE coordinator may also help in the process of whole-school planning and coordination to support the effective implementation of SPHE/RSE.

• It is of the utmost importance that classroom teachers remain in the classroom with the students and retain a central role in delivery of the core subject matter of the SPHE/RSE programme. The presence of the classroom teacher should ensure that the school follows appropriate procedures for dealing with any issue(s) that may arise as a result of the external input(s).

• All programmes and events delivered by visitors and external agencies must use appropriate, evidence-based methodologies with clear educational outcomes. Such programmes are best delivered by those specifically qualified to work with the young people for whom the programmes are designed.

• All programmes, talks, interventions and events should be evaluated by students and teachers in terms of the subject matter, messages, structure, methodology and proposed learning outcomes.