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Northern Ireland Schools’ Programme

ACCORD Northern Ireland Schools' Programme For Post Primary Schools

Many voices today compete for the hearts and minds of our young people.  We live in a world that is media and market economy driven.  This culture promotes individualism, instant gratification and upward mobility at the expense of the weak.

In such a world the voices of those who call for reflection, generosity, sacrifice, respect and sensitivity may not be heard.

The challenge that faces all of us is to speak the truth about relationships and sexuality and to make this truth relevant for today’s youth.  It is a daunting challenge, conscious as we are, of our past failures, and sinful nature, but we are equally conscious that the truth about human nature and human fulfilment is only found in Christ and as members of the Church we are his voice and his message must be heard.

The Church has always taught that happiness can only be found by following the example of Jesus, the one who loves totally and unconditionally.  Viewed in this way, church teachings about relationships and sexuality are not, as some portray them, restrictive, narrow, legalistic, burdensome or “out of touch”.  Instead they are liberating, challenging, uplifting and in touch with the deepest needs of the human person.

In June 2001 ACCORD Northern Ireland secured funding from the National Lottery and the Northern Bishops to appoint an Education Officer who would formulate a Catholic response and approach to teaching Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) at Post-Primary level.

In August 2001 all schools in Northern Ireland received a Circular from the Department of Education (DENI) on the provision of RSE.  The Circular was to be read in conjunction with guidance material published by the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

The task of the Education Officer was to ensure a programme was developed for the Catholic Post-Primary sector that followed the guidelines of DENI and CCEA.

Between November 2001 and June 2002 a major piece of research was commissioned by the Northern Bishops to examine the attitudes, beliefs and experiences of the Catholic community in the area of RSE.  The report, written by Dr. Catherine Loughery, clearly identified the issues that impacted on Catholic schools and the needs of pupils, parents and teachers in this important area of the curriculum.

ACCORD working partnership with: pupils, parents, teachers, diocesan advisers, education bodies and other professionals produced a programme that would help to meet many of the needs outlined in Dr Loughery’s report. Dr Loughery’s report and a Teachers’ Resource Book “Love Rejoices in the Truth,” were sent to every Post-Primary school in Northern Ireland.

A video pack “Love Matters” with materials for teachers and pupils was developed for use during RSE lessons for Year 10, 11 and 12 pupils.  Materials produced by CCEA for Yr 8 and Yr 9 pupils were adapted to suit the needs of Catholic schools.

(The entire ACCORD programme for pupils from Years 8 – 12 was made available to schools in September 2004).

A training programme for parents was developed, designed to show how the school could assist and support parents/guardians in the area of RSE.

A training programme for teachers, delivered by ACCORD personnel and dealing with all aspects of teaching RSE was made available in September 2004.

We face an exciting and important challenge: to provide a Relationships and Sexuality Education programmed that is modern, relevant and based on gospel principles.  An important voice needs to be heard today more than ever, it is the voice of Jesus who says, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.”  This book is the first step on a long road, the RSE programme hopes to point our young people in the direction of happy, safe and fulfilling relationships because the fullness of life is found when we give and receive unconditional love.

For further information, contact


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