Coláiste an Átha

Whole School Policy on Social, Personal and Health Education

1. Our School

2. Our School Mission Statement

3. Definition of Social, Personal and Health Education

4. Our Schools Approach to SPHE

5. Roles and Responsibilities in developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating this policy

6. Policy Content

7. Implementation

8. 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. Our 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 comprise of VEC members, parent representatives and staff representatives, who meet at least twice per 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 SPHE Policy operates. The SPHE 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 Social, Personal and Health Education

SPHE provides students with an opportunity to develop their understanding of themselves, society and to make informed decisions about their health, personal lives and social development.

SPHE provides learning opportunities and experiences which help students’ social, moral, cultural and personal development.  It helps students grow and develop as individual people and in their relationship to others as a family member, friend or citizen.

4. Our Schools Approach To SPHE

Our school is committed to addressing the needs of the whole school in relation to social, personal and health education

SPHE supports the aims of Coláiste an Átha by supporting the personal development, health and wellbeing of our students and by helping them to create and maintain supportive relationships

Our SPHE policy aims to provide learning experiences that will help the pupils to understand themselves, to relate to others and to establish and maintain healthy patterns of behaviour. SPHE compliments and supports work continuing in other subjects.

The aims of SPHE

  1. To promote the physical, mental and emotional health of the pupil
  2. To enable the student to develop personal and social skills
  3. To promote self esteem and self confidence

4.    To enable the student to develop a framework for responsible decision making.

5.    To provide opportunities for reflection and discussion

Objectives of SPHE

To enable the student to:

  1. Be self confident and have a positive sense of self esteem
  2. Develop a sense of personal responsibility and come to understand his sexuality and the process of growth, development and reproduction
  3. Develop and enhance the social skills of communication, co-operation and conflict resolution
  4. Develop an understanding of healthy living, an ability to implement healthy behaviour and a willingness to participate in activities that promote and sustain health
  5. Develop some of the skills and abilities necessary for participating fully in groups and society

5. Roles and Responsibilities in developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating this policy

Board of Management:

Supportive role in developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating this policy

Principal and Deputy Principal

The leadership of the principal is a significant factor in sustaining a supportive environment for SPHE in a school. The principal sets the tone for the school; her decisions and priorities have a direct impact on the whole-school climate. The value of SPHE in the school expressed and perceived in timetabling, the assigning of teachers, and the provision of resources.

SPHE Co-ordinator

The Coordinator will works with the SPHE Teachers to ensure a coherent and consistent delivery of the programme during each year of school and maintains records of meetings and updates.

The Coordinator will work with the various partners in developing the programme to meet the emerging needs of students.

Teachers of SPHE

Teachers conduct classes in a structured and ordered environment. The relationship fostered in the classroom is based on mutual respect. Teachers will avail of opportunities to participate in external programmes/ courses that have a direct influence on student learning within the SPHE Programme.

Whole School Guidance

Vocational /Educational /Personal Counselling is given by a Guidance Counsellor who is professionally trained, at post-graduate level, to provide for the holistic development of the student. Counselling facilitates the student in crisis by providing a range of coping strategies and interventions in a caring and sensitive way appropriate to the student’s needs and circumstances.

Guidance has vocational, educational, social and personal dimensions which cannot be isolated in practice and takes place across the whole school. Staff members from all departments work together with the Guidance Counsellor and others involved in guidance provision, since they share the objective of promoting the students’ personal development and growth.

Care Team

The Student Care Team (SCT) is largely responsible for the co-ordination of student care within the whole school network, parents and outside agencies.

The SCT meets on a weekly basis. A general SCT meeting takes place once a week followed by an Individual Care Plan meeting the following week (as required).

6. Policy Content

The curriculum for SPHE in the Junior Cycle is presented in ten modules.

Each of which appears in each year of the three-year cycle.

  • Belonging and integrating
  • Self-management: a sense of purpose
  • Communication skills
  • Physical health
  • Friendship
  • Relationships and sexuality education (RSE)
  • Emotional health
  • Influences and decisions
  • Substance use
  • Personal safety

7. Implementation


SPHE is timetabled for one period a week for each of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year class groups.

Leaving Certificate students receive 6 lessons on RSE in 5th and 6th Year.

Teaching & Learning Method

As the SPHE programme is mainly skills based, teaching and learning styles are of an active, experiential nature with an emphasis on discussion, reflection and classroom participation. These teaching methods are appropriate to the age and stage of development of the student. Incorporating assessment for learning into SPHE teaching method, can informs the teacher of the personal response and understanding of pupils to particular topics. Creating a safe learning environment is vital, and may be achieved or  through distancing techniques such as the use of drama or non personalized debate. The class atmosphere needs to be one of respect for the privacy of each individual student and of sensitivity and care.

Staff development, training, and resource issues

School management encourages and facilitates teachers to attend relevant in-service training for the continued development of the SPHE Programme. All teachers involved in the delivery of the SPHE programme in a given year together with the principle/deputy principal are involved in the co-ordination of the programme.


SPHE is part of the core curriculum for Junior Certificate students. However parents may withdraw their child from the RSE module through written. In this event, suitable supervision will be agreed with the school management.

Publishing the Policy

An outline of the SPHE is available in the school and on the school website.

The Role of Visitors

It is the duty of the teacher who organises a visit to ensure the suitability of the visit to the programme and the school. Teachers will remain with the class for the duration of a visit. The Principal must be informed in advance of all visiting speakers and the content of their presentation.

Sensitive Issues:

Class discussion will be of a general nature and not be personally directed. The SPHE teacher will act as a facilitator and not a counsellor. Teachers advise students to keep parents updated when dealing with sensitive issues. If individual issues emerge they will be referred on by the teacher to the appropriate person(s). All teachers are aware of their responsibilities under Children First Guidelines.

Links with Parents

Parents/guardians are informed of programme content at a meeting for incoming first years.  At this meeting parents/guardians are given a SPHE and a RSE explanatory booklet.  The policy document is ratified by the Board of Management.  The policy is available to parents on request and further information is disseminated through routine parent teacher meetings and letters home.  Coláiste an Átha recognises the right of parents/guardians to withdraw their child from any part of the programme being taught.

The school provides general education about sexual matters and issues but does not offer individual advice or counselling on aspects of sexual behaviour.  Sources of professional information will be identified where appropriate.  All advice/information should be age appropriate.


It is the school policy under the Child Protection Guidelines that in circumstances where a pupil may be at risk of any type/form of abuse or is in breach of the law, the teacher must refer the matter to the principal.  The principal acts as the Designated Liaison Person (DLP).  Teachers cannot promise absolute confidentiality in relation to a disclosure being made to them.  The best interests of the pupil will be taken into account in relation to conveying information onwards.


SPHE Guidelines for teachers at Junior Certificate

RSE Junior and Senior: DES

Healthy Lifestyles: Year 1, 2, 3

Health Promotion Unit

SPHE Support Services


*please see Subject Department Plan for a more detailed resource list.

8. 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 a parent:

  • we discuss the nature of the concerns with the child’s parent 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 pupils.
  • we attempt to ensure that where a pupil is withdrawn there is no disruption to other parts of their education,
  • we point out that pupils who have been withdrawn are vulnerable to teasing – we therefore attempt to cause minimal embarrassment to the pupil and minimal disruption to the programme;
  • we also point out that pupils may receive inaccurate information from their peers;
  • we offer the parents access to appropriate information and resources


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.