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Department reiterates its commitment to relationships and sex education review

MLA fears issues around consent and violence not being properly addressed in the classroom


Concerns: Cara Hunter. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

Concerns: Cara Hunter. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

Concerns: Cara Hunter. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

The Department of Education says it remains totally committed to enhancing support, resources and training around relationships and sexuality education (RSE) despite claims it is failing to engage on the matter.

SDLP MLA Cara Hunter said it was unfortunate Education Minister Michelle McIlveen had “backed away” from commitments for a review into sex education in schools made by her predecessor Peter Weir.

It comes after she raised the issue of abuse in young adolescent relationships with Justice Minister Naomi Long in the Assembly last week. Ms Hunter said: “It is extremely disappointing that Minister McIlveen has refused to live up to the commitments of Peter Weir for a review of RSE in schools, including important matters like delivering on the Gillen Review and educating our young people about consent and what is and isn’t acceptable in relationships.

“I thought it appropriate to raise this important issue this week ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“I was recently shocked to learn that one in four young women between the ages of 15 and 19 has experienced psychological, sexual or physical abuse by their partner and we need to do everything we can to tackle these disgraceful statistics.

“If we are serious about tackling the problematic issues towards women throughout our society then education has a key role to play.

“We need to tackle abuse and misogynistic attitudes in all its forms and this needs to begin in schools with our young people.

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“I’d urge Minister McIlveen to use this opportunity to recommit herself to a proper review of RSE in our schools to ensure that young people are able to recognise healthy relationships and challenge unacceptable behaviour.”

The Department of Education said: “The Department of Education is enhancing support, resources and training for schools around relationships and sexuality education and wide range of resources have been developed and are available on the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment RSE Hub.

“The department has also been working closely with the Department of Justice and is preparing additional guidelines for schools setting out the importance of ensuring the issues highlighted by the Gillen Review, including serious sexual offences and consent, are covered within the curriculum.

“In response to concerns about sexual offences mainly against girls, the department has commissioned the Education and Training Inspectorate to carry out an evaluation of the approaches and challenges in delivering effective preventative safeguarding practices in schools.

“The evaluation will provide an important evidence base in relation to RSE in the curriculum and on the issue of violence against girls.”

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