NIHRC response to the Department of Education consultation on Relationships and Sexuality Education
Date produced: December 2023.
Below is a summary of the Commission's recommendations and messages.
You can also download the full document through the links provided.
The Commission recommends:
- that the guidance being developed by the Department of Education articulates expressly the fundamental right of children and young people to an education and to exercise agency and autonomy in the exercise of that right.
- that the Department of Education ensures that the criteria for parental withdrawal are clear and limited.
- that the Department of Education develops a strategy to raise awareness of the benefits of holistic RSE and to address any myths or misconceptions relating to the provision of RSE lessons that may increase the likelihood of parental withdrawal.
- that the Department of Education develops measures to mitigate against the adverse impact of children and young people being withdrawn from RSE lessons. For example, requiring schools to advise parents of the right of children and young people to education and participation; developing guidance on when children and young people may decide to opt back in to RSE lessons; and providing alternative educational arrangements for children and young people who have been withdrawn from RSE.
- that the guidance being developed by the Department of Education outlines the key elements that should be included within ‘comprehensive’ RSE. This should be developed to achieve the aim of ensuring that all elements of comprehensive RSE are delivered within every post-primary school in NI.
- that guidance is developed following engagement with relevant stakeholders and experts to ensure that RSE programmes are inclusive and meet the educational needs of all students including but not limited to disabled students, ethnic minority students those with diverse gender and sexual identities.
- that the Department of Education collects data on the number of children and young people being withdrawn from RSE lessons, including the reason for their withdrawal. Data should be disaggregated to determine whether any specific groups are disproportionately impacted by the provision for opt-outs. For example, by age, disability, ethnicity, religion and sex.
- that in line with pre-existing arrangements, the ETI monitors the delivery of comprehensive RSE.
- that the RSE Curriculum and statutory guidance are regularly evaluated and revised by the Department of Education NI to ensure that they are accurate, human rights compliant, and adapting to emerging needs.
- that the implementation of the amendments to the Minimum Content Order is informed by the views and educational needs of children and young people. Care should be taken to ensure that engagement and consultation considers the needs of students with diverse gender and sexual identities, ethnic minority students and disabled students.
- that the CCEA should review resources provided under the RSE hub to ensure they align with a rights-based approach to RSE and meet the requirements set out in CEDAW Committee recommendation 86(d).
- that the Department of Education conducts a Human Rights Impact Assessment.