Irish children denied right to sexual and reproductive health education

In Ireland Children and Adolescents are denied their right to sexual and reproductive health education. You can do something about this by supporting the Recommendation of the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission on the Education (Admissions) to Schools Bill. This Bill will be coming up in the Oireachtas again before Christmas and you can lobby your TD’s to amend this Bill to support the rights of the child.

In March this year the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in the Concluding Observations stated that:-

(c) Adopt a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for adolescents and ensure that sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum and targeted at adolescent girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections;

 

Admissions to Schools Bill 2016

The Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission has recommended in their submission to the Oireachtas on the Education (Admissions) to Schools Bill 2015 that:-

“The Commission recommends that the new section 62(6) to be inserted into the Education Act should be amended to the effect that, in setting out the characteristic spirit and general objectives of the school, outside the specific context of faith formation and religious instruction which parents wish to avail of and where exemptions apply, regard shall be had to providing information in relation to religion in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination.”

The Rights of the Child are now part of our Constitution, the essence of the Right to Education belongs to the Child. At Primary and Junior Certificate Level Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is delivered according to the ethos of the Patron. The ethos of the Patron is integrated into all areas of the state curriculum. The Education Act 1998 does not oblige schools to ensure that the state curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. If passed the Recommendation from the IHREC would ensure that the human right of all children to a neutral and objective education will be guaranteed and protected.

 

Religious Patron Bodies evangelise

The purpose of religious patron bodies is to evangelise and they do not deliver the state curriculum on Relationship and sexuality education in an objective manner. The vast majority of schools at both primary and second level have a religious ethos and consequently Relationship and sexuality education is not delivered in an neutral and objective manner. The Right of the Child to Relationship and Sexuality education in a neutral and objective manner is disregarded and ignored.

  • At Primary level – Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

http://www.curriculumonline.ie/Primary/Curriculum-Areas/Social-Personal-and-Health-

Education-Curriculum

  • At second level – Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) – Junior Cert

http://www.curriculumonline.ie/Junior-cycle/Junior-Cycle-Subjects/Social,-Personal-and-

Health-Education

 

The right to Sexual and Reproductive Health education

There is the option for parents to opt their Children and adolescents out of SPHE under Section 30.2 (e) of the Education Act 1998 which does not oblige any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the Student.

There are four issues in relation to the above:

  1. Children and adolescents have a right to a neutral studying environment in relation to SPHE.
  1. Parents are never informed that religion is integrated into SPHE and that they can opt their children out of it.
  1. The best interests of the child are not taken into account.
  1. The voices of adolescents are not taken into account.

As it stands now many children and adolescents receiving SPHE according to the teachings of a particular religious body contrary to the convictions of their parents.

Parents in Ireland have no choice but to send their children to schools where religion is integrated into social, personal and health information, the state curriculum is not delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. The state cedes control to the interests of private Patron bodies.

The Education Act 1998 does not oblige any school to deliver the state curriculum in a neutral and objective manner and parents are left dealing with Boards of Management who are legally obliged to uphold the ethos of the Patron who in the majority of cases is a religious body.

The Board of Management of all Schools in Ireland are obliged to uphold the ethos of the Patron. Even though parents, teachers and community representatives are elected on to Boards of Management they are still subject to the approval of the Patron. Legal control over how the state curriculum is delivered rests with the Patron and not the state and certainly not with parents and their children.

 

Control over Boards of Management lies with the Patron

This is from the Manual for Boards of Management and it shows that the Patron appoints the Board and has control over that Board of Management:-

“6. When the nominees have been chosen and it has been confirmed that they have agreed to act as members, the Patron’s representative shall forward the names of the agreed nominees to the Patron for appointment together with the names of the other persons nominated to serve on the Board. It should be noted that the total period provided for notification of the composition of the Board to the Patron, acceptance by the Patron and notification to the Minister shall not exceed ten days. (page 48) Manual for Boards of Management.”

“Responsibilities of the Board to the Patron, the Trustees and the Department

The Board shall make available to the Patron, the Trustees (in schools where there are Trustees) and, when requested, the Department such reports and returns and give to them such information as they may require for the exercise of their respective functions in relation to the school.

In Ireland children and adolescents are denied their right to Relationship and sexuality education. Parents are denied their right to ensure that that teaching of their children is in conformity with their convictions. Contrary to what is claimed, it is not parents that have a choice how their children are educated.

Control over the education of children lies with Patron bodies and consequently in our Republic control of Relationship and sexuality education lies mainly with the Catholic Church. It is time for that to change, please lobby your local TDs to ensure that they respect the right of all children to Relationship and sexuality education in an neutral and objective manner. Don’t leave Relationship and sexuality education in the hands of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

 

Letter to Minister Zappone

Atheist Ireland has written to the Minister for Children, Catherine Zappone with regard to the right of children and adolescents to sexual and reproductive health education. We have asked to meet her to discuss this situation and ask for her support to ensure that all children and adolescents in Ireland have access to their human rights.

We are seeking a meeting with you to discuss the proposed Admission to (Schools) Bill 2016 which is due before the Oireachtas shortly.

There is the possibility to amend this Bill to ensure that children and adolescents have access to their human right to Relationship and Sexuality Education in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. We are hoping that you will support this amendment.

At Primary and Junior Certificate Level Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is
delivered according to the ethos of the Patron. The vast majority of schools at both primary and second level have a religious ethos and consequently Relationship and sexuality education is not delivered in a neutral and objective manner. The Right of the Child to Relationship and
Sexuality education in a neutral and objective manner is ignored.

At Primary level – Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)
http://www.curriculumonline.ie/Primary/Curriculum-Areas/Social-Personal-and-Health-
Education-Curriculum

• At second level – Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) – Junior Cert
http://www.curriculumonline.ie/Junior-cycle/Junior-Cycle-Subjects/Social,-Personal-and-
Health-Education

There is the option for parents to opt their Children and adolescents out of SPHE under Section 30.2 (e) of the Education Act 1998 which does not oblige any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the Student.

There are four issues in relation to this right to opt out.

1. Children and adolescents have a right to a neutral studying environment in relation to SPHE.

2. Parents are never informed that religion is integrated into SPHE and that they can opt their children out of it.

3. The best interests of the child are not taken into account.

4. The voices of adolescents are not taken into account in the Education Act 1998.

As it stands now many children and adolescents are receiving SPHE according to the teachings of a particular religious body contrary to the convictions of their parents.

In March this year the Committee on the Rights of the Child in the Concluding Observations stated (CRC/C/IRL/CO3-4)

(c) Adopt a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for adolescents and ensure that sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum and targeted at adolescent girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections;

http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC

%2fC%2fIRL%2fCO%2f3-4&Lang=en

 

The Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission has recommended in their Submission to the Oireachtas on the Education (Admissions) to Schools Bill 2015:

“The Commission recommends that the new section 62(6) to be inserted into the Education Act should be amended to the effect that, in setting out the characteristic spirit and general objectives of the school, outside the specific context of faith formation and religious instruction which parents wish to avail of and where exemptions apply, regard shall be had to providing information in relation to religion in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination.”

https://www.ihrec.ie/ihrc-calls-for-school-admission-policies-to-respect-human-rights/

We would appreciate meeting with you to discuss this issue in more detail as we are sure that you can appreciate that the rights of children in this matter must be guaranteed and protected.

 

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