Write to your child’s school to object to the new Catholic sex education course
The Catholic Bishops have published a new sex education course called Flourish for primary schools.
Flourish can be taught alongside curriculum Relationship and sexuality education in schools with a Catholic ethos. The vast majority of schools in Ireland are controlled by the Catholic Church. Your school may decide to ignore their legal obligation to uphold the catholic ethos of the school but we have already been informed that some schools intend to introduce it.
If you object to the introduction of Flourish in your child’s school the following is a draft letter that you can send to the Board of Management of your school. You can send it as a parent/guardian or as a group of parents.
This draft letter was sent to us by parents, and you can use it to object to the introduction of Flourish in your child’s school.
Draft Letter for schools
I/We are writing to you to draw your attention to the recent publication of the Flourish Programme. This is the new Catholic ethos Relationships and Sexuality Programme proposed by the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association and created by the Council for Catechetics of the Irish Bishops Conference.
As (a) parents of primary aged school children I/we do not feel the Flourish programme is fit for purpose when teaching RSE to children. It is discriminatory to LGBTQ+ children and families and it does not correspond with state policy.
What is taught to all children in Ireland especially in regards to sexual education should be fact based and what all the children hear should be free from influence of a religious ethos.
“Do we really want LGBTQ+ children in schools, who may be struggling with their sexual orientation to be taught that their relationships are in any way less were they, meaningful, loving, or deserving of respect than their heterosexual peers, because that is the influence of this program,” (From Roisin Shortall’s statement in Leader’s question on April 29, 2021.)
She went on to say:-
“Sex education needs to be fact based, and facts do not have an ethos.”
As parents I/we agree with her thorough analysis of the projected discrimination and damage to children that the Flourish programme would cause.
This programme is designed to intertwine God and the beliefs of the Catholic Church into every aspect of Relationships and Sexuality as it is being taught to our children in primary schools. This goes against international best practice (Pound et al, 2017; Haberland and Rogow, 2015) and is a massively retrograde step in terms of building an open society that accepts all beliefs, sexualities and genders.
The conflating of a religious programme with Relationships and Sexuality Education will inevitably result in confusion for children as they grow and mature into adults. In every single aspect of Flourish, God and/or Jesus is mentioned, this is not a thorough and scientifically accurate programme as recommended by research. It is a programme that is designed to further the teachings of the Catholic Church.
It shows a complete failure to align the teaching of RSE in primary and secondary schools. This approach goes against the recommendation that the programme is taught in a spiral manner from primary through to secondary school with greater depth given to similar topics as the students grow and mature.
Flourish will result in a disconnect between a religious approach taken in the 90% of primary schools under Catholic Management and the non religious approach taken by secondary schools to RSE. We cannot see how this will not cause confusion for our young people who are being told as children that ‘puberty is a gift from God’ and on the other that it is the biological changes that occur in our bodies as we move from childhood to adolescence.
The teaching of RSE in our schools has been a contentious issue for years and has led to a confusion and a reluctance on the part of teachers to address some of the more controversial aspects of sex and sexuality (Keating et al 2018; NCCA 2019). In a modern world where genders range from male and female to transgender and intersex; where responsible sex is more than abstinence until after marriage; where relationships are homosexual and heterosexual, we need to be openly addressing these topics with our children and not brushing them further under the carpet and creating the dark shadows that caused so much pain and heartache in the past.
The creation of RSE programmes has been the subject of much research in recent years (see Keating et al, 2018; Nolan and Smyth, 2020) and this research points to a comprehensive programme with emphasis on human rights and gender equality. It is a programme that embraces the issues that are of most interest and concern to our young people; it is a programme that is scientifically based; it is a programme that is not heteronormative; it is a programme that does not see marriage as the answer to all sex related questions and it is a programme that gives our young people a sense of bodily autonomy and self esteem when it comes to sex and sexuality.
While I/we understand that it is the right of faith based schools to promote and teach their faith, it is important to be aware that 90% of schools in Ireland are under Catholic Church management and there are no non-denominational schools in the State. This means that the 22% of the population who do not ascribe to the Catholic religion (CSO, 2016) are left with no choice but to send their children to a Catholic school. This is done with the understanding that the children will not partake in the religion classes or in the sacrament preparation that all too often happens on school time. However, if Flourish is rolled out in schools then parents will be left with a choice between the indoctrination of their children or no RSE. This is a complete failure in the part of the State, which is required to ensure “that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social” as outlined in Article 42.3.2.
I/we don’t want our school to fail our children. It has been stated by the Irish Bishops Conference, that the Flourish programme, which is not mandatory and I/we ask as parents of children in the school to firmly reject the Flourish Programme in its current incarnation.
I/we require a response to this letter and your assurance that you will support the requests detailed above. !/we look forward to hearing from you.
On behalf of (insert child / children’s name& class):