Friday, September 30, 2011

STAY SAFE and SPHE Programmes

From today, teaching of the Stay Safe Programme in Ireland's 3,300 primary schools becomes mandatory. At least 80% of schools had already been teaching the Stay Safe Programme which is great, but nothing less than 100% compliance is acceptable.

Here is some information on the Stay Safe Programme and also the SPHE (Social Personl Health Education) Programme for secondary schools along with some recommendations.


The Stay Safe Programme is a personal safety skills programme for primary schools - both mainstream and special. Its overall objective is to prevent child abuse, bullying and other forms of victimisation. There are 5 modules:

Feeling Safe/Unsafe
Secrets and Telling

Senior Infants 9 lessons 20 minutes each
1st/2nd 9 lessons 30 minutes each
3rd/4th 9 lessons 30 minutes each
5th/6th 5 lessons 30 minutes each

It's recommended that lessons are taught at the rate of one per week. This programme is mandatory as of today 30 September 2011.

STAYSAFE/SPHE (Social Personal Health Education)

Social, Personal and Health Education, as part of the curriculum, supports the personal development, health and well-being of young people and helps them create and maintain supportive relationships. Social, Personal and Health Education in Post-Primary schools is a programme for students in the Junior/Senior Cycle and builds on the experience of all children at Primary level.

There are 10 modules at Junior Cycle:

Belonging and Integrating
Self-management: A sense of purpose
Communication Skills
Physical Health
Relationships and Sexuality
Emotional Health
Influences and Decisions
Substance Use
Personal Safety

All mandatory, 1 class per week.

There are 5 modules at Senior Cycle:

Relationships & Sexuality Education (RSE)
Substance Use
Mental Health
Gender Studies
Physical Activity and Nutrition

RSE is only module which is mandatory. 6 classes per year is mandatory minimum.
Although RSE is mandatory, parents do have the right to withdraw their children from this module.


1. There should be a module in the SPHE programme dedicated specifically to safety, welfare and protection of children at post-primary (as a continuation of the Stay Safe programme at primary level). There is a module on Personal Safety (Junior Cycle) but it does not include child protection issues etc. This module should:

i. inform young people about legal issues re sexual behaviour, consent and what care means.
ii. inform young people about what is appropriate and inappropriate care from a care-giver.
iii. increase young people’s awareness of self- protective skills and abuse.

Evaluation should be built into this module to assess knowledge and skills before and after the lessons. This new module is needed in order to ensure that students who may be withdrawn by parents from RSE still receive the information about protecting themselves.

2. All SPHE Modules should be introduced at senior cycle as a matter of priority.

3. SPHE should be allocated 2 classes per week from First Year to Senior Cycle.

4. Children’s knowledge of SPHE should be assessed by means of a written evaluation and an interview (there is assessment of every other subject on the curriculum).

5. SPHE should be viewed as a specialist area like Guidance & Counselling. Not everyone is suited to teach this subject and yet in many cases teachers find SPHE on their timetables without having agreed to teach this subject. In order to be accepted on to a Guidance and Counselling course, applicants are required to undergo a rigorous interview and personality test. Given the nature of Social Personal & Health Education, there should be similar requirements of SPHE teachers. All teachers should receive a basic SPHE pre-service training as all teachers are involved in social and personal education of young people. A more specialised training should be given to those teachers who will be delivering SPHE as a curricular area.

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