Social, Personal and Health Education

Social, Personal and Health Education


The Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme at St. Columba’s College provides pupils with a unique opportunity to develop the skills and competencies to learn about themselves and care for themselves and others, and to make informed decisions about their health, personal lives and social development. We aim to enable the pupils to develop personal and social skills, to promote self-esteem and self-confidence, to enable the pupils to develop a framework for responsible decision-making, to provide opportunities for reflection and discussion and to promote physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is an integral part of the SPHE programme. Pupils receive information that is appropriate to their age and level of development. By its nature, SPHE explores issues which give rise to differing views and sensitivities. Such issues are covered with the school philosophy and ethos in mind.



SPHE is taught in all forms and is compulsory for all pupils. One class period of 45 minutes per week is allocated in all forms. Forms Primary to III are taught SPHE in their form groups and are of mixed ability. Form Primary is taught the same material as is taught in sixth class in primary schools. This involves a blending of the Walk Tall programme, which aims to give children the confidence, skills and knowledge to make healthy choices, the Relationships and Sexuality Education programme which aims to promote an understanding of, and a healthy attitude to, sexuality and relationships, and the Stay Safe programme which aims to give children the skills and strategies necessary to enable them to respond safely to any dangerous, upsetting or abusive situation. 


The curriculum for SPHE in the Junior Cycle (Forms I to III) is presented in ten modules, each of which appears in each year of the three year cycle. Topics include belonging and integrating, communication skills, physical health, relationships and sexuality, emotional health and decision-making. The programme is of a spiral and developmental nature and topics and skills are revisited under different headings and from a variety of perspectives as pupils move up the school.


The Transition Year offers us an opportunity to move away somewhat from the programme set by the Department of Education. As well as working on developing good communication skills and covering the appropriate RSE topic, the pupils learn emergency aid skills. The highlight of this is perhaps learning how to administer CPR. We are lucky to have school matrons who are qualified to teach this and the pupils get to practice their new skills on dummies


Sets in Forms V and VI correspond with the Mathematics set and so numbers can vary from set to set. These pupils are streamed according to whether they are studying Mathematics at Higher or Ordinary Level. Pupils in Form V study topics under headings including personal health, emotional and social health and relationships and sexuality education. The Form VI programme is concerned mainly with career guidance, but also includes the required RSE module.


The principal teaching methods used in our SPHE programme are based on experiential learning methods. These allow for full participation by all pupils. Activities include group work, role play and simulation, skill practice exercises, games, discussions and brainstorming. These activities encourage the active participation by all and not just the confident and vocal minority.


Although not formally examined, pupils are still assessed. Pupils record their own perceived progress in a given skill through questionnaires, worksheets and personal reflection exercises. Their work and skills are assessed by teachers through specific tasks or project work. Pupils in the Junior Cycle receive prep based on the topic covered in class most weeks. All pupils receive effort marks for SPHE.

Where appropriate, outside speakers are invited to talk to class or form groups.

Modules on bullying awareness are taught formally in Form Primary – III. Pupils in Forms IV – VI receive education re. bullying awareness informally through related modules. All pupils are made aware of our anti-bullying policy and procedures in SPHE, and the opportunity for sharing of views and concerns is always taken, particularly when our annual whole school Bullying Awareness programme is taking place.

Ms Alison Maybury is the co-ordinator of the SPHE department. The teachers of SPHE for the academic year 2016-2017 are Ms Alison Maybury, Ms Derarca Cullen, Ms Suzanne McEneaney and the Warden.


Teachers attend regular training from the SPHE teachers’ professional network and other relevant organisations. Regular Department meeting are held where the programme is evaluated and teachers have an opportunity to share ideas and discuss the pupils’ progress.