Every child should receive inclusive, evidence-based, and age-appropriate RSE, says Nicholl, ahead of Assembly debate

Alliance South Belfast MLA Kate Nicholl has said that we must end the ‘postcode lottery’ that currently exists around young peoples’ access to Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE), and that we must ensure the rights of children are enshrined in law.

Education Kate Nicholl RSE
She was speaking ahead of Monday (22 April), when Alliance will be bringing a motion to the Assembly calling for inclusive, standardised, and age-appropriate Relationship and Sexuality Education in schools right across NI.
Ms Nicholl has said: “Now is the time to move the conversation on RSE forward. The quality, content, and amount of RSE that a child receives should not depend on what specific school they attend. It is long past time that we gave every young person the right to access standardised, inclusive, high-quality, evidence-based and age-appropriate RSE as a means of empowering them and preparing them for life.  

“A study by the Belfast Youth Forum showed that 73% of young people only received RSE ‘once or twice’, or ‘rarely’, and 60% of young people felt that that the information they received was either ‘not very useful’ or ‘not useful at all.’ In their recent report on LLW, Secondary Students' Union NI found that only 22.8% of young people surveyed felt they had been adequately taught about consent. 
It is clear that our children and young people themselves want and need access to this crucial education, and it is up to the Minister to ensure their voices are heard in the development of RSE policy. However, not only is there a clear desire to access more comprehensive and consistent RSE, but it is also their right to do so, as recognised by the Committee on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in its 2023 Concluding Observations on the UK. 
“Among its recommendations, were that government should integrate comprehensive, age-appropriate and evidence-based education on sexual and reproductive health into mandatory school curricula at all levels of education, including information around responsible sexual behaviour and violence prevention, sexual and reproductive health rights, and sexual diversity. It is important that we take steps to implement these recommendations in Northern Ireland to ensure the rights of every child and young person, without fail, are upheld and protected.
“Access to standardised and age-appropriate RSE is of critical importance in helping our young people learn about healthy relationships, to fully understand their rights under the law, and to help them recognise the signs of abuse and how to access support. It is a safeguarding tool, and it is regretful that so many have missed out on this education.
“The Minster of Education must now act to ensure children do not continue to miss out in the future.