Monday, March 06, 2023

Olivia Kelleher

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has described a decision made by The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) to write a letter to two Government Ministers in which they stated that primary school pupils should not be taught what it means to be transgender as being “not the way to deal with these issues.”

Speaking during a visit to Haulbowline Naval Base in Co Cork, Mr Martin said that he disagreed with the approach taken by the CPSMA in writing to Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, and Minister for Education, Norma Foley, about the subject.

“I think letters of that kind are not the way to deal with these issues. I think that there has to be a sensitivity around this and the broader context is the Relationships and Sexuality programme which is in our primary schools.

That will be modernised to deal with issues in the age appropriate way. The curriculum experts are best deployed to create the right curriculum programme and to facilitate that.”

Mr Martin said that the Relationships and Sexuality programme has been in operation in Irish schools for quite some time.

“But that curriculum has been upgraded and changed and the Junior cycle programme for example will be ready this September at post primary.

“The Senior Cycle will be ready I understand in the following academic year. A lot of resources will have to go into teachers (at primary school level) in terms of the relationship to sexuality programme.”

In the letter to the Ministers the CPSMA expressed their belief that any decision to teach primary school children about transgenderism “would be counterproductive, generating unnecessary divisions in school communities where none now exists.”

The CPSMA also claimed that such a move “might add to a growing psychological contagion amongst young and vulnerable children.”

The CPSMA which provides advice and support for Chairpersons, Principals and Boards of Management in over 2,800 schools, said that teaching primary children “what it means to be transgender would require to teach about something with which there is neither a scientific nor social consensus to highly impressionable young children.”

The CPSMA urged the Ministers to adopt what they called a “more prudent and sensible policy” of teaching children “to respect every human being.”

“We should not prematurely introduce children to complex and sensitive topics around which there is no scientific or medical consensus.”

The Relationships and Sexuality Education programme in Irish schools, which is over a quarter of a decade old, is currently being revised at both primary school and secondary school level. Ms Foley is set to launch the framework for a redeveloped curriculum at primary level later this week.

Meanwhile, BeLonG To Youth Services, which is the national association supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI +) young people in Ireland, says that they are disappointed at the decision made by the CPSMA to write to Ministers asking for children not to be taught about issues relating to transgender.

BeLonG To CEO, Moninne Griffith, told Newstalk Breakfast that educating primary school pupils about trans issues could help trans children to “feel safe and included in their school.”

“We know from research that around twelve the most common age for a young person to know they are LGBT, but I know from talking to teachers and parents all over the country that there are young people as young as six and seven who know they are LGBT — mostly maybe trans,” she said.

“It is a small number but what is the harm in making sure that they feel safe and included in their school?”

It is understood that the CPSMA letter was sent to Minister Foley and Minister O’Gorman in late January. In early January Minister O’Gorman gave an interview to the Irish Independent in which spoke of the importance of primary school children having an “understanding” of diversity.

Minister O’Gorman was asked if primary school children should be taught more about what it means to be transgender, he said “absolutely”. He added that it was vital to refine the school curriculum to ensure pupils “are getting an understanding of diversity.”

The CPSMA has been contacted for comment in relation to the comments made by Mr Martin about their letter.

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