RSE was introduced to senior students in 2009. The subject is taught to 5th and 6th Year students, and it is a compulsory subject at Senior level, coinciding with the SPHE course at senior level. There are two ‘floating’ classes given each week to withdraw students from timetabled classes. There are a variety of resources, including DVD’s, worksheets and leaflets available for classes.
All senior students completed the relevant course material as prescribed by the syllabus. The course starts with 5th years, after the second school term and consists of six class program. The program begins with relationships and values and continues to look at self-esteem and influences. Students then examine boundaries and how we can communicate our boundaries effectively. Sexuality and sexual orientation is the final module in the first part of the course.
O'Carolan College has run many events for "Stand Up Week," an awareness week against homophobic and Transphobic Bullying. The aims of the week were to create a positive atmosphere in school to include all students and to make our school a welcome and safe place for LGBT students. SPHE classes across the year groups discussed issues relating to LGBT people and participated in a poster competition. 5th year students have been visited by local TD Dominic Hannigan, who spoke to students about LGBT issues and the history of the LGBT movement in Ireland. A school rainbow collage has also been displayed in the corridor, to which students added their own personal reasons why they support Stand up Week.
The second installment of the program starts with the 6th Years at the beginning of the school year. It begins with responsible relationships, leading into human reproduction and fertility. During the final modules, students completed workshops on contraception and issues surrounding sexual health. The RSE course concluded with a workshop dealing with issues surrounding Mental Health. Within this program we listened to real life stories from young people around Ireland who have overcome mental health issues and encourage debate and discussion within the safe environment of the class group. We find this a very valuable part of the program as students not only become aware of the issues discussed but also learn about the supports available to people who may be experiencing them. We highlight to students that this may not be something that they encounter at present but may help them or a friend in later life. We hope that it will be an experience that gives students the strength and support to cope with any issues that they may face in the ‘real world.’