On Tuesday 28th January 2020, Parentkind organised a briefing by CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment) on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) at Parliament Buildings, for the All Party Working Group – Parental Participation in Education.
CCEA updated on their substantial research into current teaching of RSE in schools across NI, which the Department of Education requested. They have launched a new-look website, and a special RSE hub for schools and parents, which splits the subject into seven priority areas:
- Domestic Violence
- Healthy Relationships
- Internet Safety
- Social Media
A special icon has been used within each section to denote that they are of particular interest to parents and carers.
Questions from MLAs
After the presentation, there was time for a question and answer session. All the MLAs attending raised questions, but the main themes were about quality assurance and engagement with parents. The Board of Governors at schools can currently decide which aspects of RSE are taught to pupils, to allow a flexible approach to accommodate the school's ethos. This means that there is no baseline of expected knowledge, and teaching of the subject varies from school to school. Recommendations include that the Board of Governors do engage parents in the RSE policy design process.
Schools using our Blueprint to consult parents
A solution that Parentkind would like to see is the necessity of schools to consult parents in developing their RSE policy, and again whenever it is reviewed and/or updated. This approach will maintain trust with parents and, when they are equipped with knowledge about course content, able to support learning at home. Meaningful engagement with parents on RSE policy is the best way to ensure any concerns are dealt with, and parents are kept in the loop. We recommend our Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools as a framework that all schools can adapt to suit their individual circumstances, but which provides best practice for high quality parental engagement. We will continue to work with CCEA, the DE and all political parties in Northern Ireland to ensure that parents have a voice in education, on RSE and many other issues.