Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE)

The teaching of relationship and sexuality education (RSE) is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age.  All grant-aided schools are required to have a RSE policy that is based on consultation with parents and pupils.  It is the responsibility of the Board of Governors of each school to ensure that a comprehensive programme is delivered which meets the needs of its pupils and aligns with its RSE policy.

About RSE

The statutory curriculum for personal development and mutual understanding at primary level, and the personal development strand of the learning for life and work area of learning at post-primary level, includes high level prescribed content for RSE at each key stage; this is the minimum entitlement that all young people must legally receive. 

Beyond this, teachers are expected to ‘provide a balance of experiences’ drawn from a list of examples prepared by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

The Preventative Curriculum in Schools and EOTAS Centres

The Department  commissioned the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) to carry out an evaluation of the Preventative Curriculum in Schools and Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) Centres.  Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, the ETI distributed questionnaires to schools, EOTAS Centres, and pupils, engaged in discussions with staff, pupils, parents and governors and conducted visits to primary, post-primary and special schools and EOTAS centres.  The published report can be found at The Preventative Curriculum in Schools and EOTAS Centres | Education Training Inspectorate ( together with ‘easy read’ versions for both primary and post-primary pupils.

The Department welcomes the many strengths highlighted in the ETI report, including: the work of staff in schools in implementing safeguarding arrangements and to support the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people; the work of governors; and the advice and support provided by Child Protection Support Service in the Education Authority.

The report also notes the growing use of social media and online safety and the challenges that these present to schools and young people is a matter of concern.

The ETI has reported considerable variation in the effectiveness and range of approaches taken by schools in delivering the taught elements of the preventative curriculum.  It also found that too many schools avoid, or cover with insufficient depth, many of the more sensitive aspects of the RSE curriculum.  The report presents an important opportunity for all of us, at both system and school level, to reflect on how the preventative curriculum, of which RSE is an important part, is delivered to our children and young people, and how we can effect the changes needed which it identifies.

Secretary of State Regulation amendments to the RSE curriculum

The Secretary of State (SoS) is under a statutory duty under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 to implement recommendation 86(d) of the Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW). Therefore, on the 6 June Regulations to amend the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, and the Education (Curriculum Minimum Content) Order (Northern Ireland) 2007 in relation to RSE Key Stage 3 and 4 were laid before Parliament.


To enhance the effective delivery of RSE, CCEA has developed and launched an RSE Progression Framework for years 1 to 14 on its RSE Hub containing guidance for teachers.  The online RSE Hub provides a central repository of age-appropriate information and guidance on a range of topics aimed at providing teachers with the resources and support to increase their competence and confidence in delivering RSE. 

Schools are encouraged to use the Hub to support the delivery of RSE and to consider ETI’s findings as part of your school development planning process.  Schools may also wish to consider using a School Development Day to support staff development and self-evaluation with a focus on the preventative curriculum including RSE.

Next steps

The Department is setting up a cross-Directorate/organisation task and finish group to consider and respond to ETI’s findings and recommended next steps, and will be engaging with practitioners as part of this process. 

The Department has issued advice to schools regarding the delivery of RSE in the context of recent report findings and the Regulations made by the Secretary of State Regulation which amend the Education (Curriculum Minimum Content) Order (NI) 2007.

The Department of Education has launched a consultation on the circumstances and arrangements which would enable a parent/carer to excuse their child from receiving age-appropriate,  comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion. 

The Department would encourage you to take the time to consider and respond to the consultation which will help inform future guidance for schools on these important and sensitive subjects. 

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