Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Catholic schools ought to be an integral part of the curriculum and present “the positive, yet challenging Catholic vision for relationships, chastity, marriage and the family”, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh has said.
Acknowledging that a review of relationships and sexuality education in all schools, including Catholic schools, was “essential” if young people were to be helped to cope with the risks from the virtual and real worlds, he urged Catholic schools to promote a positive self-image and attitude to the body, and an appreciation of the gift of sexuality.
“A sound relationships and sexuality programme, developed in consultation with parents, will include age- appropriate information, debate and discussion about contraception, sexually transmitted infections, same-sex attraction and unions and the full meaning of consent.”
On LGBT and gender issues, Archbishop Martin said it was important that Catholic schools evaluate the support offered to students facing questions relating to their sexual identity. “All young people must be treated with compassion and be helped to understand that they are loved by God and their inherent human dignity is valued and respected.”
The prevalence of sexual bullying and ostracism could leave these students susceptible to feelings of rejection, distress, self-harm and risk-taking behaviours, he warned and added: “This cannot be tolerated in any school, never mind a Catholic school which holds, as a core value, the dignity of every human person.”
The archbishop was speaking at the annual conference of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents managers and principals of the country’s 400 voluntary secondary schools.