NICCY welcomes RSE regulations

6 June 2023

NICCY welcomes the mandatory requirement for guidance on the delivery of age appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate relationships and sexuality education. [i]

It is crucial that our young people are taught about healthy relationships in a manner which supports the realisation of their fundamental right to education and the right to access information which is important to their wellbeing.

NICCY has been calling for effective and appropriate relationship and sexuality education curriculum for a number of years; [ii] in line with CEDAW recommendation 86(d) [iii]

The issue was also addressed recently by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Their recommendations to the UK government issued on 2 June [iv] include the integration of “comprehensive, age-appropriate and evidence-based education on sexual and reproductive health into mandatory school curricula at all levels of education and into teacher training.” 

Children and young people have also been saying for some time that the RSE they receive in school is inadequate and outdatedA recent ETI report [v] – based on the views of more than 14,000 pupils – referenced comments from pupils that RSE lessons were “outdated,” “only for heterosexuals” and that there were few opportunities for them to suggest topics for discussion.  

Of particular concern is the feedback from the ETI Inspectors’ visits to schools, that there was often little discussion of consent, a topic highlighted by the Gillen Review [vi] as a key aspect of a preventative curriculum. Recent work by Northern Ireland departments to progress the Domestic and Sexual Abuse strategy [vii] and a strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls [viii] have also highlighted that appropriate education can prevent exploitation and abuse and promote awareness of consent. 

Ongoing concerns about what young people are seeing or reading online regarding consent and misogyny show that we cannot afford to ‘side-step’ these issues in education – as gaps in learning are being filled by inaccurate and/or exploitative sources in online spaces which parents and educators often know very little about or indeed can keep up with.  

These regulations are a step in the right direction to creating a more open educational environment where young people can ask questions and learn about healthy relationships. They will help our young people to recognise the warning signs of inappropriate sexual or abusive behaviour and know where they can turn if they feel threatened, bullied or alone.  

Bringing Northern Ireland’s RSE provision and delivery approach up to date will help our children and young people to learn appropriately and ask questions in a safe environment, at a time when worrying influences outside of school are spreading violent and abusive messages. 

[i] The Relationships and Sexuality Education (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

[ii] NICCY. (September 2017) ENOC statement on Relationship and Sexuality Education

[iii] Report of the Inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under article 8
of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW/C/OP.8/GBR/1) published on 6 March 2018

[iv] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. (June 2023) Concluding observations on the combined sixth and seventh reports of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

[v] The Education and Training Inspectorate. (April 2023) The Preventative Curriculum in Schools and Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) Centres

[vi] Sir John Gillen. (May 2019) Report into the law and procedures in serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland.

[vii] Department of Justice. Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy 2023-2030.

[viii] The Executive Office. Ending Violence against Women and Girls.

[viiii] NICCY Consultation paper on RSE Guidance

Related news

View all