RSE Policy

This policy statement is an approved approach to the teaching of RSE in St. Finian’s N.S. It was developed in February 2013 by the whole school staff. It was developed to inform teachers and parents as to the material covered in the RSE programme within the SPHE curriculum.

School Philosophy

St. Finian’s is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Armagh. It is managed by a Board of Management, elected according to the procedures agreed by the Partners in Education. The school has a Catholic ethos and this ethos is a guiding principle in the formulation and implementation of this RSE Policy. This ethos recognises the value and dignity of each pupil and all those working in the school community, and aims at promoting the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the person.

This ethos also acknowledges the cultural and religious values of all the pupils attending the school. The school recognises that the parents are the primary educators of their children and we support them in that role.

In the area of RSE, above all, the schools’ role is subsidiary to that of the parents. We support and compliment their work.

Definition of RSE

RSE is an integral part of Social, Personal and Health Education and must be taught in this context. It provides structured opportunities for pupils to acquire knowledge and understanding of human sexuality and relationships through processes, which will enable them to form values and establish behaviours within a moral, spiritual and social framework. (p. 5 NCCA curriculum and guidelines for RSE). RSE is the formal approach to educating children in:

  • Relationships with others – parents, siblings, friends and the community in general
  • Respect for themselves and others
  • Physical development – bodily functions and changes, and personal hygiene
  • Emotional development – maturing in society
  • Parenting, personal and social skills and relationships
  • Sexuality in context – part of a loving relationship.

Relationship of RSE to SPHE and Religion

Social, Personal and Health Education contributes to developing the work of the school in promoting the health and well-being of children and young people. This happens in the context of their emotional, moral, social and spiritual growth, as well as their intellectual, physical, political, religious and creative development. (p.5 Going Forward Together Parents Information Booklet).

The key characteristics of this programme are that SPHE is a lifelong process and is a shared responsibility between family, school, health professionals and the community. The main strands of the SPHE programme are:

  • Myself
  • Myself and Others
  • Myself and the Wider World

It is clear that the Relationships and Sexuality Programme is correctly defined as being an integral part of the programme outlined above. Sexually sensitive issues will be covered within the strand units:

  • Taking care of my body
  • Growing and changing
  • Safety and protection.

As stated previously, the content of all lessons will be governed by the schools’ Catholic ethos as taught in the Alive-O Religion programme.

Current Provision

Traditionally we are a child-centred school. The educational and emotional needs of the children in our care are central to our planning and policy making processes. We have always, and will always continue to put the welfare of the children first.

Included in the school curriculum in St. Finian’s is:

  • Religious Education (Alive-O)
  • SPHE
  • Stay Safe Programme

Policies which support SPHE/RSE

  • Code of behaviour and discipline policy
  • Child protection policy
  • Enrolment Policy
  • Healthy Eating Policy
  • Internet Safety Policy

In keeping with the sentiment and spirit of these policies, we informally support many of the aims on which RSE is modelled. We encourage good behaviour, open communication, understanding and tolerance of differences, and respect for self and others. We recognise that both pupils and staff have rights and responsibilities in our school. A sense of responsibility is fostered and attention is paid to the well being of all of the members of the school community.

Aims of our RSE programme

When due account is taken of intrinsic abilities and varying circumstances, the Relationships and Sexuality Education curriculum should enable the child to:

  • Develop a positive sense of self-awareness, self-esteem and self-worth
  • Develop an appreciation of the dignity, uniqueness and well-being of others
  • Understand the nature, growth and development of relationships within families, in friendships and in wider contexts
  • Develop an awareness of differing family patterns
  • Come to value family life and appreciate the responsibilities of parenthood
  • Develop strategies to make decisions, solve problems and implement actions in various personal, social and health contexts
  • Become aware of the variety of ways in which individuals grow, change and understand that their developing sexuality is an important aspect of self-identity
  • Develop personal skills, which will help to establish and sustain healthy personal relationships
  • Develop some coping strategies to protect themselves and others from various forms of abuse
  • Acquire and improve skills of communication and social interaction
  • Acquire and use an appropriate vocabulary to discuss feelings, sexuality, growth and development
  • Develop a critical understanding of external influences on lifestyles and decision making.

Guidelines for the Management and Organisation of RSE in our School

Curriculum Matters

The curriculum as published by the NCCA will be followed. All content objectives will be covered by the time each pupil leaves 6th class – (see Appendix A for further details). The curriculum will be taught from Infants to 6th class. It will ideally be taught by the teaching staff. Outside speakers from Accord will address the “sexually sensitive issues” i.e. puberty, reproductive system, conception, birth and sexual intercourse on the 4-6th Class curriculum, during the second term of Fifth/Sixth class. All resources used will be in keeping with the ethos of the school and this policy.

  • Sensitive issues classes are generally taught from infants to 3rd during March.
  • In a multi class situation, the younger class will be withdrawn when topics being taught are not age-appropriate
  • When an outside speaker is used, the principal will make them fully aware of school policy. Parents/guardians will be notified in advance of the lesson. The class teacher will remain with the class during the lesson.

Organisational Matters

  • Prior to the teaching of lessons involving “sensitive issues”, parents will be informed by letter with an accompanying outline of the lesson (including vocabulary to be used)
  • It is a parents/guardians right to withdraw a pupil from these lessons. This request for withdrawal must be made in writing.
  • If parents/guardians request the withdrawal of a child from RSE lessons, provision will be made for them to leave the classroom at that time. Supervision will be provided. With regard to matters of a confidential nature, the school cannot take any responsibility for what is discussed in the yard or classroom. Should a child who is withdrawn from the sexually sensitive classes receive inappropriate information from others outside of these classes, it will be the responsibility of the parent/guardian to address the issues.
  • Any teacher has the right to opt-out from teaching the sexually sensitive issues in RSE. It is responsibility of Board of Management to ensure that the curriculum will be delivered to the children, by another teacher, or an outside speaker.
  • Parents are welcome to view the curriculum and may speak to the class teacher if they have any concerns.

Dealing with Questions

It is natural that children should wish to ask questions in the area or RSE. However, this area is treated somewhat differently from other subjects due to its sensitive nature.

All questions answered will reflect the parameters of the curriculum. Certain topics will not be discussed i.e. abortion, masturbation, homosexuality, contraception. Questions to the teacher may be written or oral within the group setting and answered within the boundaries of the curriculum and school policy. If any questions asked by the children are judged to be inappropriate, the teacher will refer the child to their parents, or state that this information may be available at a later stage of the curriculum. The school cannot guarantee confidentiality if a child asks a question of a personal nature or discloses personal information.

At all times the child’s and teacher’s right to privacy will be maintained

Parental Involvement

Parents/Guardians are the primary educators of their children and as such the school supports them in this role. The Parents’ Council may on occasion arrange for speakers/meetings to help them in the task of communicating with their children on aspects of their development. Parents/Guardians may access copies of the policy from the school office, or school website.


The Alive O programme, the Stay safe programme, and a selection of other appropriate resources will be used. All resources are available for parents/guardians to view if they so request prior to the delivery of the lesson.

Provision for Ongoing Support

  • Parents are welcome to view curriculum if they so wish.
  • Funding will be sought for the provision of suitable materials when deemed necessary.
  • Opportunities provided by our Education centre will be brought to the attention of staff members. Career development will be sought for staff when required, or as requested.


The staff, under the guidance of the Principal will review this policy every three years. This policy will also be reviewed should the need arise.

Ratification and Communication

The Board of Management of St. Finian’s School ratified this amended plan on ______________
This plan will be reviewed in 2014 and every three years thereafter.
This plan was reviewed on ________________________

Appendix A

RSE – Sensitive Areas

Junior/Senior Infants

New Life – mention of baby in the womb.
My Body – specific names for male and female sex organs – vagina, penis, womb.

First/Second Class

New Life – New baby. Baby joined to mother by umbilical cord – mention breast feeding.
Birth of baby through vagina. Mention umbilical cord and breast feeding.

Third Class

As for second class, but in more detail.

Fourth/Fifth/Sixth Class (Accord Biannual Programme during Fifth/Sixth Class)

Language around baby’s development in womb, i.e., fertilised egg, cord. Pictures of foetuses
Menstruation in the context of hygiene and growth from a girl to a woman.
Boys and girls development – puberty.
How does new life begin?
Biological facts as follows:

  • What journey does the egg make?
  • What journey does the sperm make?
  • Where do they meet?
  • What happens when they meet?
  • Optional videos:
    Fifth class – Growing
    Sixth class – Busy Bodies.


Dear Parent/Guardian,

Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a very important element of the school curriculum. SPHE covers a wide range of topics such as self identity, making decisions, citizenship and relationships, which equip children with many of the skills and knowledge needed in today’s world.

The Relationship and Sexuality element of the programme (RSE) includes the learning, understanding and the development of attitudes, beliefs and values about relationships, sexual identity and intimacy.

The content of the programme falls under the following headings:

  • Myself – Self identity, taking care of my body, growing and changing, safety
  • Myself and Others – Myself and family, friends and relating to other people
  • Taking Care of My Body – Naming parts of the male and female body using the correct terminology (Junior Infants to 3rd classes). Identifying physical changes. Understanding puberty and the Reproductive System (4th – 6th Classes)
  • Growing and Changing – The stages of development of a baby from conception to birth (1st – 3rd Classes). Understanding sexual relations within the context of a committed loving relationship (4th – 6th Classes).

Within this content, there are a number of sensitive issues, which will be dealt with within the coming weeks. Our school policy outlines that issues such as conception and reproduction will primarily be taught in Fifth/Sixth Class. We encourage you to talk to your child about what they will learn through RSE in a mature and respectful way. An appendix to our RSE Policy outlines the vocabulary that will be used. A copy is attached to the back this letter.

A parent’s right to withdraw a pupil from the sensitive issues process will be honoured on the understanding that the parent(s) takes full responsibility for this aspect of education themselves. Parents are obliged to inform the school in writing of their decision to withdraw the child from the sensitive issues classes.
The school has no responsibility for any information which the pupil may receive outside the direct teaching of the RSE lessons

Questions arising from curriculum content will be addressed by the teacher or by Accord facilitators in a sensible, sensitive and age-appropriate manner. Questions arising outside of the curriculum will be referred back to the parent(s).

We thank you for your ongoing support in ensuring your child will have received a balanced education in St. Finian’s.


Is mise le meas,
Pádraig Mc Eneany

RSE Policy – View in PDF format