Social, Personal & Health Education (SPHE) and Relationships & Sexual Education (RSE)

SPHE, by its very nature, is an integral part of the student’s daily life. However, while much of the teaching in SPHE can be done informally throughout the school day, the Primary School Curriculum advises that learning is best facilitated in a combination of three ways:

  • in a positive school climate and atmosphere,
  • through discrete time (a specific time on the timetable)
  • through an integrated approach throughout a range of subject areas.

SPHE enables the student to develop the skills necessary for managing his/her life to the best of his/her ability, personally and socially. The age and stage of development of the student will be important factors in determining the emphasis of each student’s scheme of work.

SPHE is intrinsic to all areas of the curriculum and to every facet of the student’s life. Issues cannot be explored in isolation, but must be seen as part of the daily experience of the student. Every opportunity should be taken to place learning in its functional context. Students should be enabled to understand and use language appropriate to particular situations.

RSE is an integral part of SPHE and must be taught in this context. It provides structured opportunities to pupils to acquire knowledge and understanding of human sexuality and relationships through processes which will enable pupils to form values and establish behaviours within a moral, spiritual and social framework.

Central to RSE is the fostering of self-esteem, through which the pupil becomes more aware in making choices and decisions in all aspects of life and particularly in those relating to sexuality and relationships. Research shows that pupils who do not have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can see ‘the bigger picture’ but those on the spectrum present and have difficulties on:

  • Knowing the social rules governing touching of self and others.
  • Inhibiting urges and impulses
  • ‘getting to know’ a person
  • Understanding about ‘dual consent’ and the right to say ‘NO’

Therefore, when planning a RSE programme, it should be taking into consideration the extent to which the content is treated which will be dependent on the emotional and intellectual maturity of the children. Thus a degree of flexibility is advisable.

SPHE and RSE help all pupils develop as individuals in a wider society. Pupils learn to understand themselves physically, emotionally, socially and sexually and to understand their relationships with others.

You can download the entire curriculum here:

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