RSE Policy

RSE Policy

St. Mel’s College



School Context


St. Mel’s College, Longford is a Roman Catholic Voluntary secondary school for male students only, under the trusteeship of the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. St. Mel’s College, while was previously a boarding school now caters for day pupils only from Longford town and surrounding areas. It is situated beside St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford town. The school is managed by a Board of Management consisting of eight members, four nominated by the trustee, two elected by parents and two elected by the teaching staff. The Principal, while not a member, acts as secretary to the Board. St. Mel’s College supports and subscribes to the principles of inclusiveness, accountability, partnership, transparency, respect for diversity, parental choice and equality and is committed to the successful implementation of relevant education legislation, in particular the Education Act (1998), The Education Welfare Act (2000) and the Equal Status Act (2000).  The school is grant aided by the Department of Education and Skills, which includes teacher resources. In the school year 2018/19 St Mel’s College had 529 students and 31 full time teachers.

Mission Statement

St. Mel’s College is a Catholic diocesan secondary school under the patronage of the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, that is committed to providing an education for male students which, in co-operation with parents:

  • promotes the spiritual, moral, social and personal development of our male students;
  • strives for academic and sporting excellence in keeping with our inherited traditions,
  • fosters an inclusive, caring, Christian Community based on Gospel values,
  • where each person can expect to be treated with courtesy, respect, and dignity,
  • nurtures and guides our students in developing their potential and in becoming responsible adults.


The Scope of this Policy

This policy will apply to all aspects of teaching and learning about relationships and sexuality. Since discussions about relationships and sexuality take place in classes other than SPHE/RSE, it is important that all teachers are familiar with the RSE policy. This policy will apply to school staff, students, board of management, parents/guardians, visiting speakers and external facilitators.

Definition of Relationship and Sexuality Education

Relationship and Sexuality Education is a developmental process of experiential learning which aims to help pupils cultivate a healthy attitude towards themselves and others, particularly in the area of sexuality and relationships.

 “Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is a lifelong process of acquiring knowledge and understanding and of developing attitudes, beliefs and values about sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. This education is delivered consciously and unconsciously by parents, teachers, peers, adults and the media.

 In Irish schools, RSE will provide structured opportunities for pupils to acquire a knowledge and understanding of human relationships and sexuality through processes which will enable them to form values and establish behaviours within a moral, spiritual and social framework. This approach gives opportunities to children and young people to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible manner…. At post primary level, this means building on the primary programme and providing young people with information and skills to critically evaluate the wide range of information, opinions, attitudes and values offered today, and to make positive, responsible choices about themselves and the way they live their lives.

 Relationship and Sexuality Education Policy Guidelines, DES 1997

The aims of our Relationships and Sexuality Education Programme:


Relationships and sexuality education which is located in the overall framework of Social, Personal and Health Education, has as its specific aims:


  • To help pupils understand and develop friendships and relationships
  • To promote an understanding of sexuality
  • To promote a positive attitude to one’s own sexuality and in one’s relationship with others
  • To promote knowledge of and respect for reproduction
  • To enable pupils to develop attitudes and values toward their sexuality in a moral, spiritual and social framework in keeping with the policy of the school
  • To provide opportunities for pupils to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that helps them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way.


It is acknowledged that in a course of limited duration these aims are aspirational.


Guidelines for the management and organisation of Relationships and Sexuality Education in our school:


Arrangements regarding the teaching of the programme and the deployment of staff will made by the Principal and the Timetable Committee


SPHE is timetabled for one class period once a week for Junior Cycle students. Within this framework RSE is taught as a module over six class periods. Transition Year students will also be taught RSE as part of the Guidance programme. Fifth Year students are taught RSE as part of the Religious Education Programme on a modular basis and final year students are taught RSE as part of the Guidance Programme/Religious Programme. As referred to earlier in this policy document RSE will only be taught in the second and third terms of each school year in line with best practice around delivery of RSE.

Informing and Involving Parents:


Parents are the primary educators of their children and their role in education concerning relationships and sexuality is seen by the school as very important. This policy has been designed in consultation with Parents’ Association representatives and the views expressed by parents will be taken into account when reviewing the policy. This policy will be made available in its entirety on the school website.


Offering Advice:


The school’s function is to provide a general education about sexual matters and issues and not to offer individual advice, information or counselling on aspects of sexual behavior and contraception – however sources of professional information and advice will be identified when appropriate. Teachers may provide pupils with education and information about where and from whom they can receive confidential sexual advice and treatment, e.g. their doctor or other suitable agency. Advice offered should not be directive and should be appropriate to the age of the pupil.


Explicit Questions:


It may not be appropriate to deal with some explicit questions in class. Teachers may choose to say that it is not appropriate to deal with that question at this time. If a teacher becomes concerned about a matter that has been raised he/she should seek advice from the SPHE coordinator/ Guidance Counsellor or the Principal. When deciding whether or not to answer questions the teacher should consider the age and readiness of the students, the RSE programme content, the ethos of the school and the RSE policy.




It is school policy that in circumstances where a pupil is considered at some risk of any type of abuse or in breach of the law, the teacher must refer this immediately to the Principal. The Principal will decide whether to inform the parents and/or appropriate authorities and may arrange for counselling.

The following is also school policy:

  • teachers must not promise absolute confidentiality;
  • pupils must be made aware that any incident may be conveyed to the

Principal and possibly to parents if the Principal decides that it is in the

best interests of the pupil to notify parents;

  • teachers must use their professional judgement to decide whether

confidence can be maintained having heard the information;

  • teachers must indicate clearly to pupils when the content of a

conversation can no longer be kept confidential – the pupil can then

decide whether to proceed or not.

The Child Protection Guidelines for Post Primary schools state in 4.1.1. and 4.2.1.


4.1.1.   If a member of staff receives an allegation or has a suspicion that a child may have been abused, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse he/she should, without delay, report the matter to the Designated Liaison Person in that school. A written record of the report should be made and placed in a secure location by the Designated Liaison Person. The need for confidentiality at all times, as previously referred to in Chapter 1 Paragraph 1.2 of these guidelines, should be borne in mind. The supports of the school should continue to be made available to the child.


4.2.1    If the Designated Liaison Person is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion or allegation he/she should report the matter to the relevant agency immediately.


The division between biological and non-biological aspects of sex education:


The school policy is that the Science Department deals primarily with the biological aspects of reproduction.


Withdrawing pupils from the RSE Programme:


The school recognises that the parent/guardian has the right to withdraw their child from the RSE programme if they wish to do so. Parents/Guardians wishing to withdraw their son must contact the Principal in the first instance. This request should be made in writing to the  Principal in September of each year; otherwise the student will take part in the RSE classes. Parents/Guardians will be informed that where students are withdrawn from RSE, the school cannot take responsibility for any versions of class content passed on to them by other students.


Using visiting speakers and others:


  1. a) It is school policy that most of the RSE programme is best discussed openly with teachers who are known and trusted by the pupils. However visitors can enhance the quality of the provision as long as they are used in addition to, not instead of a planned programme of RSE.


  1. b) The SPHE Co-ordinator will provide the visitor, well in advance of the visit, with a copy of this RSE policy. After gaining approval from the Principal for the visit the organiser makes the visitor aware of the ethos of the school and the manner of delivery of the RSE programme.

Issues to consider are:

  1. i) the degree of explicitness of the content and presentation;
  2. ii) will the visitor be accompanied by teaching staff?

iii) will the staff take an active role in the visitor’s activities?

  1. iv) how will the visitor be prepared for the visit?
  2. v) how will the visit be built upon and followed up?
  3. c) Visitors should be given advance notice of the composition of the class and an idea of how their contribution fits into the scheme of work.
  4. d) The Office should be informed of the date and name of the visitor.
  5. e) The visitor should be welcomed at the main door.




Teachers do not promote any one life-style as the only acceptable one for society and therefore it is inevitable and natural that homosexuality will be discussed during a programme of sex education. One of the advantages of exploring issues concerning homosexuality is the opportunity to correct false ideas, assumptions and address prejudice. Discussion of homosexuality should be appropriate to the age of the pupils.




This topic will be dealt with in an age appropriate (fifth year/sixth year), open manner, looking at all sides of the issues in a non-directive way.

Special Needs:


Children with special needs may need more help than others in coping with the physical and emotional aspects of growing up; they may also need more help in learning what sorts of behavior are and are not acceptable, and in being warned and prepared against abuse by others.


Ongoing support, development and review




All teachers involved in this work do not necessarily have to be ‘experts’ on the issues concerned. However, they do require sensitivity to the needs of the group, an ability to deal with questions openly/honestly and preparedness to refer to more expert advice if necessary. Given the sensitive nature of the work involved training of staff is paramount. Accordingly Teachers delivering the RSE programme will attend the training provided by the SPHE support service. The school will facilitate teachers to obtain expert training in this field, bearing in mind the overall budgetary framework and the need for the ongoing teaching and learning programme of the school to continue with as little disturbance as possible.





Roles and Responsibilities in implementing the Policy:


All partners, including the Board of Management, Parents/Guardians, School Management and Teaching Staff, have roles and responsibilities in ensuring the implementation of RSE Policy in our school.




The school will purchase appropriate RSE teaching materials which have been identified by staff as useful and which have been approved by the Principal, within the normal budgetary framework and as general school resources allow.


Monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the RSE programme:


We are committed to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of this programme. Specifically important to the RSE Programme are:

  1. a) pupil feedback;
  2. b) staff review and feedback;
  3. c) parental feedback.