PRESS RELEASE: New SPHE programme brings curriculum forward to meet the challenges students face on and offline – Children's Rights Alliance

Published date: 
16 May 2023

New SPHE programme brings curriculum forward to meet the challenges students face on and offline – Children's Rights Alliance


The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the new Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme published today (16 May 2023) by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The new Junior Cycle SPHE curriculum follows four key strands:

  1. Understanding myself and others
  2. Making healthy choices
  3. Relationships and Sexuality
  4. Emotional Wellbeing

Speaking in response to today’s publication, Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance said:

“It is crucial that students feel they have the necessary tools to navigate growing up in today’s complex social environment. The current curriculum does not represent the reality of young people’s lives today. Our schools should be a safe environment where young people are supported and encouraged to engage in learning opportunities that enhance their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Young people themselves have shared their desire for a reformed curriculum that better meets their needs and the new SPHE syllabus published today demonstrates a clear understanding of the new challenges facing young people and educators today.

The review of SPHE and the updated programme shows the Department’s intention to tackle the changes felt during adolescence with a more emotional and social lens. The proposed changes bring the SPHE curriculum forward, to meet teenagers where they are and address some of the issues they are experiencing in their day to day lives, particularly as young people who are growing up in an online world as much as they are offline.”

The SPHE curriculum places an important focus on sexual health and relationships, consent and the influence of online harms including pornography. The Alliance welcomes the importance placed on online safety and student wellbeing and self-esteem.

“Our children and young people are growing up without a clear understanding of what consent is and when it is needed. The ever-changing online world means it is easier than ever for them to be exposed to sexual or harmful content online which can directly impact how they interpret sexual interactions as they grow older. For many teenagers, the online world is a portal for information but without education programmes that help them navigate this space and understand how to share personal information, opinions and emotions in a safe and responsible way, the information and content directed and marketed at them can have a profoundly negative impact on their own self-image and self-worth."

"It is welcome that the curriculum will also support children to understand how to access and appraise appropriate and trustworthy information. Having a portion of the curriculum dedicated to educating children at the first opportunity on these topics and making informed choices, will create a positive foundation for how to navigate their world now and in the future,” continued Tanya Ward.

“The focus on wellbeing will help ensure that the best interest of the students is at the centre of our education system, which is essential if we are to continue on the road of reforming the system to better meet the needs of children and young people. The next step will be the development of a roadmap on how the revamped SPHE curriculum will be rolled out in schools so that it delivers the positive learning outcomes set out in the programme. It is also critically important that educators are supported to provide all students with equal opportunity to access the new programme.”



For more information/interviews contact: 

Emma at or 087 997 1410 


Notes to Editors: 

Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for media interviews. 

Read the Curriculum Overview here.