This course is taken by all second level students in Ireland up to Junior Cert. and is compulsory. S.P.H.E. stands for Social, Personal and Health Education. It replaces what was once known as Pastoral Care and covers all areas of social and personal health. It aims to enhance the maturity and decision making skills of the student and strives to construct a non-judgemental learning environment where students have the freedom to discuss and explore very crucial, sensitive and important issues in their lives.
Special place is given in the course for the place of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). The Catholic ethos of the school plays a large part in informing how S.P.H.E. is taught. The course while being non-judgemental, must be also informative and directed by an experienced teacher. Committees of teachers, students, parents, management and local professionals steer, inform and oversee how the course is taught and run especially in the areas of RSE and substance use. There is generally a whole school approach to key areas and the school year has times earmarked when certain subjects or issues are being covered. From time to time outside speakers come in to add depth and experience to the course.
The course is never static and must be examined and evaluated regularly. A post holder in the school usually directs and has special responsibility for S.P.H.E. While often the content and personal observations of students in the class may be sensitive or private, the course and what goes on in the classroom and school must always be self reflective, open and transparent. Finally S.P.H.E. in the school is controlled by legislation and outside agencies such as the S.P.H.E. support service and all teachers in the school take part in inservice and training organised by these agencies very regularly.