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Parents urged to make voices heard on sex-education redraft

Parents have been urged to make their voices heard on a “major redrafting” of the sex-education curriculum for Irish schools – or face being “disempowered” regarding what their children learn in school, according to parents groups and teachers. 

The Vice-President of the Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Association (CSSPA), Alan Whelan, said that parents were able to make submissions to the consultation being managed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) by November 5th  – and urged them to do so as “the NCCA seemed inclined to ignore parents’ role as primary educators of their children”.

The changes being proposed to the curriculum for both primary and secondary schools have proved controversial in recent times, as parents queried references to WHO documents which proposed that masturbation be taught to 4-year olds.  The references were later removed.

Previously, several packed meetings on changes to the curriculum heard that parents were angry that they had not been consulted in regard to changes. At one meeting, Labour Councillor Pamela Kearns, shocked a meeting of parents last month by saying  that babies masturbate for pleasure.

Mr Whelan, who is a teacher and was formerly a school principal, said that the “NCCA as an organisation does not engage with or represent parents with students in the 341 Catholic CSSPA second level schools, which is 50% of the nation’s secondary schools.”

“Clearly NCCA has wrapped itself in a thin parental cloak which is totally out of touch with the many parents who contact us day to day with concerns at their exclusion from any meaningful parental voice in respect of general school ethos” added Mr Whelan.

He said that the NCCA’s consultation regarding Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools was “seriously flawed” and listed three keys areas for concern:

1. Parents were being excluded from the process – with a focus on surveying “teachers, students, and ‘those working with the support services’ and other adult stakeholders” without reference to parents. “It is not only unacceptable that parents are blatantly excluded from RSE consultations, but contrary to the natural and constitutional rights of parents, who should have an integral role in the development of SPHE and RSE.  This failed approach by the NCCA needs to be corrected as a matter of priority,” Mr Whelan said.

2. He also pointed to the absence of any male presence on the thirteen member SPHE/RSE Development group tasked with formulating a new compulsory curriculum foer sex education. “Without any sense of irony, this all female RSE group uses hashtags to highlight the use of the principles of “equality” and “inclusivity” in its approach to the RSE curriculum.  The NCCA seems to have ignored the reality that the gender composition of the RSE Group is inequitable, discriminatory and unbalanced.   It is unacceptable that the group charged with developing the new RSE programme for Secondary Schools is lacking the input of a male point of view, which is required to bring a balanced approach to the sensitive area of sexuality education, which intimately concerns both genders,” he said.

3. Mr Whelan said that the ethos of schools was being ignored, as were the views of thousands of parents who had previously made submissions in favour of upholding the ethos of schools with respect to the new RSE programmes. He said that despite assurances from then Minister for Education Joe McHugh in 2019, “RSE resources which have been published to date promote gender and LGBTQ ideology”.

“The new SPHE/RSE Toolkit resources on the NCCA website provide clear evidence that it is promoting gender and LGBTQ ideology from Junior Infants upwards. The RSE resources place an unbalanced emphasis on sexual orientation and gender identity which could cause confusion to young children. An LGBTQ activist on the Primary School RSE Curriculum Development Group promotes the ‘Queering the Curriculum’ agenda, and has drafted curriculum resources promoting gender and LGBTQ ideology on young children from Junior Infants upwards,” he said.

Teachers are now being advised <https://www.into.ie/app/uploads/2019/10/We-All-Belong-Picture-Books-Resource.pdf>  to introduce transgenderism to children in Junior Infants in new guidelines from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).

The INTO has drawn up a list of reading materials on the topic saying the books and accompanying exercises for Junior and Senior Infants seek to encourage school children “to challenge their own concepts and ideas” around gender identity – whether they feel they are actually a boy or a girl.

The NCCA needs to address “the fact that the  Primary and Secondary Schools SPHE Curriculum Development Groups are unbalanced, discriminatory and unfit for purpose and need to be reconstituted so as to include more male input, ensure that the major national parent groups, including the Catholic Parent body, are included in a meaningful way, remove from its website, and from teachers’ Professional Development website, RSE curriculum resources which are in contradiction of parent’s values; respect the ethos of schools,” Mr Whelan said.

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