The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has described the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s deadline for his Public Consultation on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) at Key Stages 3 and 4 as ‘unrealistic and insensitive’.
Following a request for comment from the News Letter on the launch of the Department of Education’s consultation on RSE a spokesperson for the Church told the newspaper: “When the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced his decision back in June to bring forward legislation relating to the provision of Relationships and Sexuality Education in post-primary schools the Presbyterian Church in Ireland described his actions as ‘flawed’ and ‘a patronising imposition of a series of measures on the people of Northern Ireland with little or no consideration of their views’.
“The Secretary of State’s deadline of 1 January 2024 for the introduction of his revised RSE curriculum to post-primary schools is a further example of his unrealistic and insensitive approach to these matters, given that school leaders are already facing enormous pressures including those caused by reduced funding.”
The spokesperson continued: “PCI has previously stated that RSE should be taught in a sensitive and inclusive manner, where teaching is reinforced and supported by policies and processes that schools have in place around bullying, safeguarding and pastoral care. Young people should also have the opportunity to explore their own personal morals, values and beliefs including the moral and ethical considerations around sensitive issues like abortion and the prevention of early pregnancy.
“The Department of Education consultation, announced today, is the first, and apparently only, opportunity for teachers, governors, parents and other interested stakeholders to have their say on the Secretary of State’s legislation. Like other stakeholders PCI will take time to consider the content of the consultation and respond accordingly. However, we also call upon the Secretary of State to reconsider his timetable so that Northern Ireland’s Department of Education can conduct a truly meaningful consultation with all stakeholders on these most sensitive of issues.”