A Review of Relationship and Sexuality Education in Ireland


  1. What is Driving the RSE Agenda

Marxism and a desire to turn children into social justice revolutionaries to bring about Utopia

    • 174 years ago, Karl Marx drafted an infamous document called the Communist Manifesto which was an attempt to solve the problem of oppression in society
    • Marx developed a theory that divided society into classes with those who owned property being the oppressors and those without property being the oppressed – this is called classical Marxism
    • As far as Marx was concerned, wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of the working class and his theory therefore sought to dismantle the class structure through the abolition of property
  • Marx believed that if a benevolent dictating authority forcefully took ownership of all wealth, property and resources, that it could be redistributed in a more equitable manner and this would be for the common good
  • History however informs us that while communist societies stagnated and suffered, through persecution and starvation, capitalist societies throughout the same period of time, flourished and prospered
  • This rather inconvenient fact forced the new Marxists to shift their policies away from class struggle to the politics of identity
  • Identity politics is a structure which grants more or less privilege to groups or individuals based on immutable characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity etc.
  • Instead of trying to control society through class conflict, they are now trying to control society through identity
  • In order to exert total control over society the new Marxist discovered that they needed to destabilise 5 key pillars of culture such as are religion, the family, education, media and law and order
  • One of the methods they use to destabilise the family is to destabilise children by confusing and sexualising them, and this is where the new RSE programme comes in
  • Once you destabilise a child’s identity, they become disaffected, dissatisfied and mentally ill and this makes them politically groomable so that they can be manipulated into becoming revolutionaries for the Marxist cause – which is to exert total control over society (communism). The children end up hating and rebelling against their parents’ morality, which they refuse and reject and potentially rise up against the older generations who they now see as repressing them and who are unable to understand them
  • The Marxist agenda is to turn your children into social justice warriors in order to further their agenda of communism and they do this by making your children so confused about their identities that they become mentally and emotionally unstable and this makes them easy to manipulate, both sexually and politically


  1. What could the RSE Agenda Potentially Lead To
  • Mental Health disorders in your child
  • Breakdown of the family unit to the point of uprising against the older generation
  • Contribution to breakdown of society
  • Total control through the successful implementation of Communism


  1. The History behind RSE in Ireland

Minister for Education set up Expert Advisory Group on Relationships and Sexuality

Expert Advisory Group presented an overview of the main issues regarding the introduction of RSE in Ireland, and concluded that the school had a role to play in supporting and complementing the work of the home while stressing that parents are the primary educators and, therefore, should have a major role in influencing developments in this area

The report put forward a framework for RSE which was mindful of the role of parents and the school community, as well as school ethos, in shaping delivery

Department of Education issued circular M4/95 titled “Relationships and Sexuality Education

– schools were directed to begin the process of developing a school policy in collaboration with parents, teachers and management so that they could start to introduce RSE as part of the wider aspects of SPHE in 1995/1996

Section 6.1 (Rights of Parents) stated: “In deciding to include an RSE programme as part of SPHE in school curricula, the right and duty of Parents to provide for the religious, moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children is acknowledged. While the home is the natural environment in which RSE takes place, most parents look to schools for support in fulfilling their obligations to their children in this area of development. Consequently, the school is seen as playing a supportive and complementary role to the home in this task. It is envisaged that this will be achieved by involving parents, with management and teachers, and, where appropriate, with pupils, in a collaborative exercise towards school policy development. This policy will make provision for the rights of parents who hold conscientious or moral objections to the inclusion of such programmes on the curriculum and will state how the school intends to address these situations.”

The Education Act was enacted

This act enshrined in law the child’s right to Social, Personal and Health Education, with section 9 of the act requiring that every school use its available resources “to promote the moral, spiritual, social and personal development of students and to provide health education for them, in consultation with their parents and having regard to the characteristic spirit of the school”

DES issued Circular 22/2010 titled “SPHE Best Practice Guidelines for Primary Schools”. This circular confirmed that “SPHE is a mandatory curricular subject in all primary schools. National and international research has consistently shown that the classroom teacher is the best placed professional to work sensitively and consistently with pupils and that s/he can have a powerful impact on influencing pupils’ attitudes, values and behaviour in all aspects of health education in the school setting

DES issued Circular 37/2010 titled “RSE” which states:-
Schools have a responsibility under Section 9 (e) of the Education Act 1998 to promote the moral, spiritual, social and personal development of students and promote health education for them, in consultation with their parents, having regard to the characteristic spirit of the school….. Regard must also be had to Section 30 (2) (e) under which a child may not be required to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student, or in the case of a student who has reached 18, the student….The RSE policy should reflect the core values and ethos of the school as outlined in the school’s mission statement. Spiritual, moral and ethical issues may arise when teaching RSE. The school’s RSE policy should guide teachers in the treatment of such issues, in accordance with the ethos of the school.”

So even up to 2010, the Department of Education was cognisant of both the role of parents and ethos of the school in developing and implementing an RSE programme

That said, the Department of Education was also starting to acknowledge that the classroom teacher can influence students’ attitudes, values and behaviour

In 2012, the people approved the 31st Amendment of the Constitution, which provided for the insertion of a new Article 42A relating to children

This referendum was passed by 58% of voters on a turnout of 33% of those eligible to vote.

The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, 2014-2020 was published. The vision of the policy was stated to be “Our vision is for Ireland to be one of the best small countries in the world in which to grow up and raise a family, and where the rights of all children and young people are respected, protected and fulfilled; where their voices are heard and where they are supported to realise their maximum potential now and in the future.”

The Gender Recognition Act was enacted. The purpose of this act is to allow persons over the age of 18 years to make an application for recognition that they have changed their gender

Department of Children and Youth Affairs published the National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision Making 2015 – 2020

“The goal of this …… is to ensure that children and young people will have a voice in their individual and collective everyday lives across the five national outcome areas.. The strategy focuses on the everyday lives of children and young people and the places and spaces in which they are entitled to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives

Section 4 of this strategy paper deals with Supporting Implementation and talks about the legal supports available to ensure the voice of the child is heard. These legal supports are: 1. Child and Family Agency Act 2013; 2. The Referendum on Children’s Rights 2012; and 3. Guardian ad litem

n Oversight Committee for the LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy was established

‘Being LGBT in School’ A Resource for Post Primary Schools to Prevent Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying and Support LGBT Students’ was published

Department of Children and Youth Affairs published the first ever LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy for the years 2018-2020

Minister for Education and Skills asked the NCCA to undertake ‘a major review’ of RSE in schools, with one of the specific areas for consideration being “LGBTQ+ matters”

NCCA published its Report on the Review of RSE in primary and post primary schools

NCCA published the brief for the redevelopment of Junior Cycle SPHE – for consultation. One point of significant note is the fact that section 2.3 of this paper deals only with student and teacher perspectives, disregarding the voices of parents entirely. In fact, the role or authority of the parent is not mentioned even once in this paper

NCCA published a Consultation Report on the Brief for the Review of Junior Cycle SPHE

This report included feedback sections for students, teachers and other stakeholders

July 2022 the Minister for Education opened the NCCA consultation phase on the draft SPHE  curriculum including RSE for Junior Cycle

This consultation phase remains open until the 18th of October 2022


  1. 2019 NCCA Report and the consultation that proceeded this report

The review took place under 3 specific headings:

  • drawing on studies and research
  • in consultation with key leaders, organisations and individuals with expertise and experience in the area of RSE and
  • working with schools

What do you notice missing from this list – PARENTS

It has become a common theme over the course of this review of the RSE curriculum (which commenced in 2018) that the voice of the parent has been significantly downgraded to that of “other stakeholder” or “individual”

The main takeaways from the consultation process are:

  • Stakeholders suggest that students should have access to factual, scientific information free from bias, but at the same time, those making these submissions often make reference to the fact that such information contain concepts such as gender fluidity – so there is a constant play on language
  • Some people believe that parents should not have the right to opt their children out of RSE
  • Many people believe that the law should be changed to ensure that RSE is delivered by all schools regardless of that schools ethos
  • The vast majority of submissions are in favour of teaching LGBT+ sexualities and gender identity to young children


  1. Significant differences between when RSE was initially introduced in the 90’s and now


  • Focus was on the rights, voice and opinions of the parent – to the extent that the opinion of the parent was considered paramount
  • It was accepted that schools could introduce selected aspects of RSE according to the school ethos
  • RSE was delivered very much from a factual, biological perspective


  • The focus is the rights and voice of the child, coupled with the opinions of teachers, and NGO’s. The voice of the parent is not even considered secondary in some cases. The parent has been reduced to a stakeholder where their opinion is given same weight as a member of the general public
  • A majority of respondents believe that RSE should be mandatory and the law should be changed to force schools to deliver all aspects of the agreed upon RSE programme
  • A majority of respondents believe that children should be taught about diversity and inclusion, but it is unclear how many respondents understand what these terms actually mean


  1. RSE from an International Perspective

In 2010, the WHO published “Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe” which states:

this document is intended to contribute to the introduction of holistic sexuality education. Holistic sexuality education gives children and young people unbiased, scientifically correct information on all aspects of sexuality and, at the same time, helps them to develop the skills to act upon this information. Thus it contributes to the development of respectful, open-minded attitudes and helps to build equitable societies…. A holistic approach based on an understanding of sexuality as an area of human potential helps children and young people to develop essential skills to enable them to self-determine their sexuality and their relationships at the various developmental stages. It supports them in becoming more empowered in order to live out their sexuality and their partnerships in a fulfilling and responsible manner…. Sexuality education is also part of a more general education, and thus affects the development of the child’s personality… In this document, it was deliberately decided to call for an approach in which sexuality education starts from birth. The trend in Europe as a whole over recent decades has been to make sexuality education mandatory, without “opting-out” clauses that allow parents to withdraw their children from classes

Part 2 of this document sets out a sexuality education matrix and states: “The following matrix has been designed to give an overview about the topics which should be introduced to specific age groups.”

The matrix includes recommendations such as:

  • 0-4 years: the right to explore gender identities; enjoyment and pleasure when touching one’s own body and early childhood masturbation
  • 4-6 years: same sex relationships; acceptance of diversity; their rights; gender, cultural, age differences; talk about differences; an open non judgmental attitude; respect for different norms regarding sexuality
  • 6-9 years: body changes, menstruation, ejaculation; a positive gender identity; choices about parenthood; the basic idea of contraception; the difference between friendship, love and lust; diseases related to sexuality; sexual violence and aggression; name their rights; recognise and deal with differences
  • 9-12 years: use condoms and contraception effectively in future; first sexual experience; gender orientation; sexual behaviour of young people


  1. What is covered in the new RSE programme

The junior cycle course in SPHE is said to be: “designed to support students in developing a positive sense of self and a capacity to care for themselves and others.”

It is designed around four interconnected strands and three cross-cutting elements:

“Strand 1: Understanding myself and others This strand focuses on developing self-awareness and self-esteem and building some of the foundational skills and dispositions needed for healthy
relationships and to thrive in life (including communicating and negotiating, listening, showing empathy, respecting difference, and self-management/self-regulation).

Strand 2: Making healthy choices This strand offers opportunities for students to consider how they can make healthy choices to support their wellbeing. It explores what being healthy might
look like for a teenager, what helps or gets in the way of making healthy choices and how to access reliable information to support good choices. Students will also practice the skills needed
for making healthy decisions and come to understand contextual factors, such as family, peer,
media and social pressures, that influence decisions.

Strand 3: Relationships and sexuality This strand explores the cognitive, physical, emotional and social aspects of relationships and sexuality through a positive, inclusive and rights-based
approach. The focus is on family relationships, friendships, romantic/intimate and potential sexual relationships in the future.

Strand 4: Emotional wellbeing This strand primarily focuses on nurturing emotional wellbeing and promoting positive mental health. It helps develop problem solving and coping skills for dealing with the emotional ups and downs of life, explores how to support themselves and others in challenging times and discusses where/how to find support, when needed”

“The four strands are underpinned by three cross-cutting elements that support effective teaching  and learning in SPHE. These are:
Reflection and action.

Awareness is the ability to understand one’s own thoughts, emotions, values and behaviour. It includes understanding how different things influence our sense of self and how we live our lives,
including the influence of family, peers, the internet, gender, culture and social norms. This element also includes an awareness that to be human is to be in relationship and that we all share
a common humanity, dignity and rights.

Through dialogical teaching and learning students are facilitated in engaging with a diversity of viewpoints; can discuss and reflect on their own perspectives, values, and behaviours and those of others; enlarge their understanding on topics of relevance to their lives and come to informed, thoughtful decisions based on their personal values, with due regard to their own rights and the rights of others. Respectful dialogue is aided by presuming a diversity of backgrounds, identities, cultures and experiences in every classroom and seeing these as a resource for learning.

Reflection1 and action
This focuses on students reflecting on what they have learned and coming to their own personal insights and conclusions in response to their learning. It focuses on enabling students to consider how the learning can inform their choices, behaviour and relationships, and discerning what it means for their lives now or for the future. Education in SPHE is a ‘praxis’; an ongoing process of critical reflection and action, nurtured by dialogue with others.”


Strand 1. Understanding myself and others

Students should be able to:
1.1 explore the physical, social and emotional changes that happen during adolescence
1.2 reflect on their personal strengths and values and how they bring these into relationships
1.3 explore how life experiences can impact on self-esteem and identify ways to nurture a positive sense of self-worth
1.4 appreciate that sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are core parts of human identity and that each is experienced along a spectrum
1.5 reflect on gender equity and how gender stereotypes impact on expectations, behaviour and relationships
1.6 discuss experiences/situations of bias, inequality or exclusion based on race/ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation and devise ways to create more inclusive environments
1.7 communicate in a respectful and effective manner, including demonstrating the capacity to understand the perspectives of, and empathize with others
1.8 demonstrate self-management skills, including setting personal goals, delaying gratification, and self-regulation of thoughts, emotions and impulses

Strand 2: Making healthy choices

Students should be able to:
2.1 evaluate what being healthy might look like for an adolescent, including how food, physical activity, sleep/rest and hygiene contribute to health and wellbeing
2.2 investigate how unhealthy products (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, alcohol, and snack and diet foods) are marketed and advertised to appeal to young people
2.3 analyse the supports and challenges for young people when it comes to making healthy choices about smoking, drinking alcohol and other addictive substances/behaviours, and discuss how the challenges can be overcome in real-life situations
2.4 demonstrate skills and strategies to help make informed choices that support health and wellbeing and apply them in real-life situations that may be stressful and/or involve difficult peer situations
2.5 discuss the physical, social and legal consequences of their own or others’ use of addictive substances
2.6 consider scenarios where, for example, using alcohol, nicotine, drugs, food and screens might be used to cope with unpleasant feelings or stress and discuss possible healthy ways of coping
2.7 assess the benefits and difficulties associated with their online world
2.8 discuss how to share personal information, images, opinions and emotions in a safe, responsible and respectful manner online and face-to-face
2.9 examine the risks and consequences of sharing sexual imagery online and explore why young people do this
2.10 demonstrate how to access appropriate and trustworthy information about health.

Strand 3: Relationships and sexuality

Students should be able to:
3.1 explore human sexuality – what it means, how it is expressed, what healthy sexual expression might look like and the difference between sexuality and sexual activity
3.2 discuss the values, behaviours and skills that help to make, maintain and end relationships respectfully (friends, family and romantic/intimate relationships)
3.3 identify signs of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships
3.4 examine relationship difficulties experienced by young people in friendships, family relationships, and romantic/intimate relationships
3.5 explore the pressures to become sexually intimate and discuss ways to show respect for people’s choices
3.6 communicate in an effective manner that can support responsible decision-making about relationships and sexual health that are age and developmentally appropriate
3.7 appreciate the importance of giving and receiving consent in sexual relationships, from the perspective of building caring interpersonal relationships and from a legal perspective
3.8 explain the importance of safer sexual activity with reference to methods of contraception and protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
3.9 investigate the influence of digital media (in particular, the influence of pornography) on young people’s understanding, expectations and social norms in relation to sexual expression
3.10 demonstrate how to access appropriate and trustworthy advice, support or services related to relationships and sexual health.

Strand 4: Emotional wellbeing

Students should be able to:
4.1 discuss the fluid nature of emotional wellbeing and ways to protect and nurture it
4.2. recognise the links between thoughts, feelings and behaviour and how these impact on how we respond to different situations
4.3 consider the impact of stress and be able to draw upon a variety of techniques to help self regulate emotions and deal with the day-to-day stresses of life
4.4 discuss ways to support themselves in challenging times and where/how to seek support, if
4.5 explore the potential impact of substance use on mental health
4.6 examine different kinds of abusive and bullying behaviour that can occur in online and face to-face interactions
4.7 explain why noticing and responding to abusive or bullying behaviour is important and discuss appropriate responses (why, how, where and when to report)
4.8 identify actions young people can take, without putting themselves at risk, in situations where they are aware of incidents of abusive behaviour or bullying happening
4.9 demonstrate how to access appropriate and trustworthy information and services aimed at supporting young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health
  1. RSE and the Law: The Constitution and Statute
  • The Constitution confirms the role of the school is subsidiary to that of the parents
  • Article 42 recognises parents as the primary educators of their child
  • Other articles also have a bearing on education law, in particular the articles dealing with the family and religion (Articles 41 and 44)



“1 The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.

2 Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.

3 1° The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.

2° The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.

4 The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.”


Articles 41 and Article 42 dealing with Education and the Family have been the subject of a number of court decisions, which have found the following:

  • The family is the main source of education for the child
  • Parents are entitled to provide education outside the school system if they wish
  • The state may not force parents to send their children to any school or any particular kind of school
  • The state may require that the children receive a certain minimum education.
  • The state is obliged to provide for free primary education – this means up to the age of 18 year

In addition to the Constitutional protections offered, the Education Act 1998 also specifically states that the Minister “shall not require any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student.”

It Is therefore settled, that parents and guardians may withdraw their child from any part of the school’s curriculum that they choose


  1. What can be done to Stop the RSE Agenda
  • Respond to the NCCA consultation which is open until 18 October 2022
  • Hold information sessions with parents so they understand the agenda behind this programme; the fact their rights as a parent are being eroded and downgraded by the school, department of education and NCCA; and the potential for serious mental health consequences if their children are exposed to this ideology
  • Opt your child out of SPHE and RSE – while also insisting that the school provide alternative study arrangements
  • Form broad based parent collations to collectively petition as a louder voice

Opting Out

The ICHR Draft Opt Out letter makes reference to circular 13/2018 which addressed “Religious instruction and worship in certain second level schools in the context of Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution of Ireland and Section 30 of the Education Act 1998” and provided for the following:

  • that those who did not want instruction in line with the requirements of any particular religion be timetabled for alternative tuition throughout the school year rather than supervised study or other activities
  • that a school must establish in advance the wishes of parents in relation to opting out of religious worship or instruction
  • that ascertaining parental choice in relation to religious instruction should be integrated with the school’s processes for establishing subject choices generally
  • that the school must offer an alternative subject(s) for those who do not want religious instruction. Parents must be made aware that such alternative tuition is available and be asked to choose between religious instruction and the alternative subject(s) offered by the school
  • that once an opt-out has been expressed it should endure in subsequent years unless otherwise advised by the parent; and
  • that there is no basis for a school to intrude in regards to the reason for the opt out on the privacy of those who are opting for the alternative subject(s). The only information required is that the parent wants to opt for the alternative subject(s)

The opt out letter template calls for similar arrangements to be made with regard to opting out of RSE


Please find the following supporting documents and templates:

  • Opt Out letter that you can send to your child’s school if you do not wish them to partake in SPHE or RSE – this letter asks the school to meet with you to discuss what alternative arrangements they intend to make when SPHE/RSE is taking place in the school, noting that advising you that you must come and collect your child from the school is not an acceptable alternative arrangement.
  • Submission that you can email to the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) to express your disagreement at the proposed updates to the RSE curriculum. You just need to include the date and your name/address at the end of the letter.
  • Circulars M4/95 and 0013/2018, as discussed in this presentation on RSE


Opt Out letter

Submission to the NCCA

Circular M4/95 

Circular 0013/2018