Responding to the launch of a report by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) on a case for reform of Relationship and Sexuality Education in Schools (RSE) today (12th June), the Transferor Representatives’ Council (TRC), which represents the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church in education issues in Northern Ireland, has criticised the Commission for ‘a paper–based exercise’ that doesn’t reflect the day–to–day reality of how RSE is taught in many of Northern Ireland’s schools.
Speaking about the report, Dr Andrew Brown, Chair of the Transferor Representatives’ Council, said, “TRC will take time to consider the report from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and its recommendations. However, a few issues immediately stand out for comment.
“That the NIHRC was able to access RSE policies from over 120 post–primary schools across Northern Ireland is in stark contrast to claims within the 2018 CEDAW Report, which formed the basis for the Commission’s investigation, that RSE is ‘underdeveloped or non–existent’.”
“It is very disappointing that during the course of their 16 month–long investigation the NIHRC did not speak to teachers, students, governors, or parents, or find time to observe the teaching of RSE in the classroom. The recommendations put forward in the report are based on a paper exercise and not at all reflective of the day–to–day reality in many of our schools, or of the professional competence and capabilities of our teachers.”
Dr Brown continued, “It is also highly concerning that the NIHRC is advocating that RSE can be delivered in the classroom in a way which is value–neutral and outside the parameters of school ethos. High–quality RSE within our schools is much more than just information based on legal, biological or medical facts. It involves consideration of behaviours, values and attitudes that bring meaning and purpose to our understanding of healthy and flourishing relationships.
“As an organisation committed to our schools, their governors, teachers, and pupils, TRC also remains committed to supporting the delivery of excellent RSE within our schools, which respects the needs of young people, and provides them with the opportunity to explore their own personal morals, values and beliefs.”