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Belong To: “New Junior Cycle SPHE Curriculum has Youth Voice at its Core”

Belong To: “New Junior Cycle SPHE Curriculum has Youth Voice at its Core” 

Belong To is delighted to welcome the new Junior Cycle SPHE curriculum, published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) this month. 

The student-centered nature of the curriculum is hugely progressive, with a focus on skill development and a positive approach to learning. Rather than focusing on harms, stigma and shame, the new SPHE curriculum uses awareness, dialogue, reflection and action to empower young people to make positive choices around health, wellbeing and relationships. 

The fresh approach taken by the new curriculum reflects the extensive research and consultations undertaken by the NCCA, and the commitment of the Department of Education to ensure that all young people receive the skills and knowledge that they need to be safe, healthy and happy. 

In preparation for this review, Belong To conducted a series of focus groups with LGBTQ+ youth to understand their needs and experiences relating to SPHE, sex education and wellbeing promotion in school.  

We are proud to see key points put forward by LGBTQ+ young people represented in the final curriculum, including: 

  • Consideration of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences throughout 
  • Positive teaching on consent, safer sexual behaviour, sexual health and boundary setting in relationships 
  • A broad understanding of health, mental health and wellbeing 
  • A strong focus on social media, online safety and digital literacy in a way that reflects the reality of young people’s lives 
  • Clear actions relating to bullying and abusive behaviour in schools, friendships, families and other relationships 

The School Climate Survey, published by Belong To and the Teacher’s College, Columbia University, found that only 35% of LGBTQ+ post-primary students were taught about LGBTQ+ identities in SPHE. Our research shows that positively representing LGBTQ+ identities and experiences in the school curriculum means LGBTQ+ students are more likely to feel like they belong in their school, and are less likely to miss school days on account of safety concerns. 

We look forward to engaging further with the NCCA to ensure that post-primary SPHE teachers have the skills, training and knowledge necessary to roll our this new curriculum. 

The NCCA has provided an information note for parents, and a note for media, on the new Junior Cycle SPHE curriculum. These documents can be accessed at the links above. 

Belong To’s submission to the NCCA in relation to the draft Junior Cycle curriculum is available here.