Aims of SPHE in Willow First Year

• to enable the students to develop personal and social skills
• to promote self esteem and self confidence
• to enable the students to develop a framework for responsible decision making
• to provide opportunities for reflection and discussion
• to promote physical, mental and emotional health and well – being.

Mission and Ethos

The aims of the SPHE Programme are in keeping with the vision of our school’s “Mission and Ethos” and “Pastoral Care” policies. As a community of learners;

The success of the school is determined by the degree to which we create a safe learning environment… in which each member of the school community feels recognised, valued and empowered to achieve their highest standards of personal excellence (spiritual, moral, social, academic, sporting etc.)

United in one heart and spirit (cor unum et anima una) we are passionately committed, with courage and conviction, with faith and strength (fides et robur) to employ every provision possible to ensure that no one “falls though the gaps”.

Our students come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. Therefore, SPHE teachers must always be mindful that every classroom includes students from a variety of cultures, even if all present were born and reared in Ireland. Every module in SPHE must be taught in a culturally sensitive manner, to include and engage all students. Teachers must be aware of how different cultural practices can impact on content and methodologies used. It is also important that students learn about similarities and differences and that in doing so they are helped to understand and to respect these differences.

Each child has individual needs and abilities. Where necessary teachers change and adapt the SPHE programme to suit the variety of needs displayed by children in our care, some of whom have particular special needs. As a school community we are conscious of the need to include each student in the lesson by using various different teaching methods.

SPHE is a subject that requires participation, involvement and interaction from each student so it is very important that each teacher will use a wide variety of teaching methods to make it possible for all students to be actively involved. Through the use of appropriate methodologies, students with special needs can fully participate in the SPHE class.

SPHE addresses areas that are particularly crucial in the development of a person with learning difficulties and special needs and so it is our policy that a child will not be withdrawn from SPHE class in order to receive learning support or resource help.

At the heart of our endeavours as a school, lies the belief that “a young person who has a high degree of self-worth, a sense of security and a positive self-image will be more predisposed to school life, and to the variety of learning situations it offers” (Junior Certificate Syllabus Guidelines)

Through its cross-curricular approach to SPHE, Willow Park First Year “strives to be a school which encourages its students to become creative and responsible citizens and leaders. It wants them to be, not just passive recipients and conformists, but confident people who can take control of their own lives. Through their participation in the school’s many activities, it is hoped that each student will grow towards becoming a well-balanced, trustworthy and informed person, one who is capable of both independent and co-operative activity, as appropriate” (Mission and Ethos)

Willow Park First aims to meet the following criteria of Health-promoting schools (ENHPS) in our SPHE programme:
• development of self-esteem of all pupils by demonstrating that everyone can make contributions to the life of the school.
• the development of good relations between staff and pupils and between pupils in the daily life of the school.
• The clarification for staff and pupils of the social aims of the school.
• The provision of stimulating challenges for all pupils through a wide range of activities.
• Using every opportunity to improve the physical environment of the school.
• The development of good links between the school, the home and the community.
• The realisation of the potential of specialist services in the community for advice and support in health education.

Evolution of SPHE

From its inception, Willow Park First Year has placed great value and emphasis on the importance of implementing a highly informative, challenging and student-centred SPHE programme.
In the first year of its implementation, the entire SPHE programme (inclusive of RSE) was carried out in modular form in RE class (e.g. Modules 1, 2 & 5 September/ Oct etc.) Each module was allocated a certain number of consecutive RE classes, (e.g. RSE received six RE classes- a two-week period). On average 28-32 forty-minute RE class periods were allocated to SPHE.

After a general meeting was called inviting all parents to a briefing on the R.S.E. programme, a committee of nine parents, seven teachers, the principal, vice-principal and school chaplain was set up. This committee held several meetings to discuss the R.S.E. programme and existing policy statements from other schools alongside suggestions from the Department of Education. As a result of these meetings a policy statement was drawn up.
Assessment (including self-assessment worksheets) was incorporated into RE class (in RE copies.) All available training (in Blackrock Education Centre with Siobhan Foster), and materials for the programme (most notably ‘On my own two feet’, ‘Busy Bodies’ and ‘Resource Materials for RSE’) were availed of.
Within one academic year of its introduction the seeds of cross-curricular possibilities were sown as Science and PE updated their curricula to incorporate SPHE modules. The physical changes (including both male and female and reproduction) aspects of RSE Module 6 were covered concurrently by both the RE teacher and the Science teacher (post-Easter). Letters were sent home to inform parents of the issues being covered in RSE. The topics relating to Physical Health (Module 4) and Substance Use (Module 9) were also taught concurrently in and PE and RE.
It is important to note that even in its infancy, there was a succinct recognition among all members of staff that SPHE was not merely restricted to the domain of certain subjects, but was in fact being taught (in an informal way) across the curriculum and indeed outside the classroom in a multitude of ways.

SPHE Review

With the introduction of RE as an exam subject (and the time constraints therein implied) the SPHE programme (and RSE policy) needed to be reviewed. The evident overlapping of aspects from Modules 6 Relationships and Sexuality and Module 4 Physical Health, was addressed and these modules were no longer required to be covered in RE class. (The emotional changes accompanying the physical changes at adolescence were still to be covered in RE).

Analysis was undertaken (over the period from 2007-2011) at several SPHE, staff meetings and informal discussions relating as to the how modules were in fact being covered in other subject areas, and in other areas of school life. Members of staff were encouraged to avail of SPHE training and an analysis of how SPHE was being taught was undertaken.

What emerged was a clear picture of, what we believe to be a highly effective, whole-school and holistic approach to SPHE. The nature of the school (first years only) and the small staff-size facilitates the implementation of this educationally unique cross-curricular approach. All areas of school life, most notably, events such as Bullying Awareness Day, Orientation Day, Retreats, Green Flag activities and the work of the Care Group, Deputy Principal and Class Tutors, were seen to be instrumental in the effective delivery of a whole school programme of SPHE. Although RE class continued to incorporate topics from many of the ten SPHE modules, it surrendered its status as the primary agent of SPHE delivery. From August 2012 each class group had one timetabled period of SPHE per week, in addition to the important cross-curricular elements.

The following is an outline of Willow Park’s SPHE programme. It has four clear dimensions

• SPHE as a timetabled and discrete subject.
• SPHE within each subject area.
• SPHE outside the classroom.
• SPHE personnel and support structures within the school.