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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Opinion Piece Irish Independent 05/09/2011

Though it comes as no surprise, the statement from the Holy See this weekend is indeed a technical legalistic carefully crafted document which seeks to absolve the Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican of any responsibility for the cover up of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. That cover up of course didn’t just occur in Cloyne. Or Dublin. That culture of cover up, despite its horrendous consequences, is typical of a culture of cover up that existed throughout the Catholic Church in Ireland for decades. And not just in Ireland of course.

A grand jury investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia reported in 2005 that the strategies employed by Catholic hierarchy there to cover up the sexual abuse of children were so similar in nature to tactics reported from other dioceses around the United States that it amounted to the Catholic Church having employed well-orchestrated strategies for decades and in all parts of the United States to keep abusing priests in ministry while minimising the risk of scandal or legal liability.

There have been similar reports too from many European countries over the last few years, including from Germany where Pope Benedict, as Archbishop of Munich, covered up for a priest in 1980. Sadly, as is often the case when abusers are protected, that priest went on to sexually abuse again and was eventually convicted.

In addition to the commonality of practice Cardinals and Bishops engaged in to cover up known child sexual abuse and protect the abusers, there are the 1962 and 2001 Vatican documents instructing Bishops around the world to conduct investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse in secret.

In addition, in respect of Ireland, there is the 1997 letter from the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican to the Irish Catholic Bishops which makes it very clear that reporting of any suspected sexual abuse of children to civil authorities gives rise to serious reservations of a canonical nature and that the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must instead be meticulously followed. The Holy See’s insistence in its statement this weekend that that letter did not serve to deter any bishops from reporting of allegations to civil authorities is simply not true. And no amount of dishonest spin changes that fact.

Though it was clearly wrong for the Vatican to attempt to deter members of the Irish Catholic hierarchy from reporting to civil authorities they really needn’t have bothered because what was newly revealed in the Holy See statement was the fact that Irish Catholic Bishops didn’t take the child protection guidelines any more seriously than the Vatican did in the first place. We are told that Cardinals Daly and Connell clearly understood the difference between a document of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and a document of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious: they can ignore the latter.

Disingenuous of them not to have made that clear to the rest of us in 1996 when they deliberately gave the impression that from then on, in all cases where it was known or suspected that the sexual abuse of a child had taken place, they would report it to the civil authorities.

And now, instead of a Catholic hierarchy here and in the Vatican explaining to us why anyone should ever believe a word they say ever again, or ever trust them on the issue of child protection, they seem to think the duly elected leader of our country now owes them an explanation for some of the comments he made during his speech in the Dail following publication of the Cloyne Report.

In his speech Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke of an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago. I think the Taoiseach was right to articulate the anger so many people in Ireland felt on hearing not only about Vatican and Papal Nuncio non-cooperation with the Dublin and Cloyne inquiries but also our anger at attempts made by the Vatican to get the Irish Government to instruct the Murphy Inquiry on how it should approach the Vatican during the course of that Inquiry. Non-cooperation with an Inquiry is an act of frustration of that Inquiry.

It should also be remembered that the Cloyne Report tells that there was no attempt to implement child protection guidelines in that Diocese until 2008, despite there being a requirement within the State’s child protection guidelines to do so. That too was an unacceptable frustration of attempts in this country, to advance child protection.

Catholic bishops are owed nothing. They should consider themselves lucky that the only reason many of them are not behind bars is because the disgusting and unforgiveable acts they engaged in to conceal known child sexual abuse and protect abusers were not a criminal offence at the time.

Andrew Madden
END 05/09/11

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Holy See Response September 2011

The gimlet eye of the canon lawyer has been busy in the Vatican as publication of the Holy See’s response to the Irish Government regarding the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne reveals every effort to continue to find ways for the Holy See to absolve itself of any responsibility for the cover up of the sexual abuse of children by priests for decades from one side of the world to the other.

It has been widely reported in recent months that Irish Catholic Bishops were frustrated in their attempts to implement their own child protection guidelines (1996 Framework Document) because the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican only considered those guidelines to be a study document. It is interesting to note from today’s Holy See response that members of the Catholic Hierarchy in Ireland also shared the view that those guidelines were not binding on them at all, the only people who seemed to think that Catholic Bishops were implementing child protection guidelines were the Irish Government and the Irish people, and it was disingenuous of Bishops to give that false impression in 1996 and allow it to continue and develop over the following years.

The Holy See continues to insist that the 1997 letter from the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican to the Irish Catholic Bishops did not forbid reporting of allegations to civil authorities. This continues to be completely untrue. The 1997 letter makes it very clear that such reporting gives rise to serious reservations of a canonical nature and that the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must be meticulously followed. Such procedures make no mention of reporting the sexual abuse of children by priests to civil authorities.

The response from the Holy See refers to the absence of mandatory reporting in Irish law. Such absence does not excuse the lengths Catholic Bishops went to conceal known child sexual abuse and to protect and reassign abusers. Nor does it excuse the way Catholic Bishops misled people into thinking they were implementing child protection guidelines when clearly they were not.

It is worthy of note too that while the Holy See has taken note of the Irish Government’s intention to introduce legislation making it a ‘criminal offence to withhold information about a serious offence against a child’, it states that the prescriptions of civil law should always be followed, but it includes the qualification ‘without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum’.

Regardless of the Holy See’s reservations or observations what is important now is the child protection legislation being prepared by both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence. The wording of such legislation will be very important and every effort must be made to ensure that no undue, unnecessary or unworthy exceptions are facilitated.

END 03/09/2011