ISPCC highlights need for updated Relationships and Sexuality Education in welcoming report

Young teenage couple take photo in park


The ISPCC has highlighted the significance of the current review of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme, in welcoming the findings of new research published today by the ESRI and HSE.

The organisation has inputted to the review of the RSE syllabus, which it views as vital to meeting the needs of children and young people in Ireland today and reflecting the changes which have taken place in Ireland since the current programme was published in 1999. 

The research findings, including that almost half of all those surveyed age 17 have not discussed sex and relationships with their parents and that the delivery of relationships and sexuality education varies widely, reflect the experience of the ISPCC’s Childline Listening Service.

ISPCC Chief Executive John Church said: “The ISPCC warmly welcomes this timely report published today, which emphasises how important it is that an updated RSE programme be delivered to children and young people in an age and developmentally-friendly manner through our schools from primary level.

“The findings of this research reflect what many children and young people who turn to the Childline Listening Service for support tell us. Of the approx. 800 online contacts, calls and texts the service receives every day, many come from children and young people seeking support or information in relation to sex, sexuality and relationships.

“It is essential that children and young people receive education which is relatable for them and grounded in their lived experiences. A whole-school approach is needed to ensure this is effective. Relationships and Sexuality Education and Social, Personal and Health Education must incorporate the needs of all children and young people in Ireland today – including those who live with a disability, those who identify as LGBTQI+ and those whose gender is different to that which they were assigned at birth.

“Through our work, we know that many children and young people can search online for answers to questions which have not been covered through RSE in school. The results to these searches can be pornographic in nature and can lead to confusion and perceived unrealistic expectations of what constitutes a positive, healthy, sexual relationship. The ISPCC, therefore, supports the recommendation of the 2019 Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills’ report that the negative impact of pornography should be central to discussions on reforming SPHE and RSE.

“Irish society in recent decades has heard of too many instances where children who were sexually abused did not have the language to explain what was happening to them, or the understanding that what was happening to them was wrong. A truly innovative and dynamic new RSE programme will empower all children and young people, by making them familiar with the concept of sexuality and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy, or inappropriate, relationships. This could assist in the prevention of, or early intervention in, potential child sexual abuse cases happening in future.”

“The ISPCC looks forward to continuing to contribute our insight and experience from our work with children and young people to the development of the vital updated RSE programme.”

ISPCC Childline is available 24 / 7 to any child or young person who would like support.


Childline can be reached in the following ways:


Phone: 1800 66 66 66

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