SPHE Policy

Social, Personal and Health Education


Mission Statement

“The school seeks to create a caring environment, in which Christian values permeate all aspects of school life and, in which, the school community find fulfilment.”

Gaelcholáiste Mhuire (A.G.) An Mhainistir Thuaidh is a Catholic Co-educational Secondary School under the trusteeship of ERST where pupils are taught through the medium of Irish.

The school supports the principle of inclusiveness and endeavours to base its teaching on the example of the gospels and on the principles and Christian example of Blessed Éamonn Rís, the founder of the Christian Brothers.

The five characteristics of an Edmund Rice school underpin the operation of Gaelcholáiste Mhuire(A.G.), namely:

  • Nurturing faith, Christian spirituality and Gospel-based values,
  • Promoting partnership,
  • Excellence in teaching and learning,
  • Creating a caring school community,
  • Inspiring transformational leadership.


We understand that education in support of personal social and health development will be a part of an education process which seeks to fulfil the overall holistic aim of the school. The holistic aim of education is complemented by a similarly holistic view of health. The tendency to understand health as simply the absence of illness and disease has been replaced by a multi-dimensional and more dynamic view. Physical health is only one element and cannot be considered in isolation from emotional, mental, spiritual, social and sexual health. The emotional health of our students involves their ability to recognise and express their feelings. Their mental health is associated with their ability to think and make judgements. Their spiritual health involves integration of many dimensions of life and the ability to put morals into practice. Social health for our students is concerned with their integration into a web of relationships and sexual health is their acceptance of and expression of their sexuality. This overall development is a pre-requisite for successful learning – a young student of ours 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 we offer.


Programmes and Levels

SPHE is a mandatory subject for the Junior Certificate Programme.


Subject Aims:

Building on the aims of SPHE in the primary school at post-primary level SPHE aims:

  • to enable students to develop personal, social and emotional skills;
  • to promote self-esteem and self-confidence;
  • to enable 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;
  • to foster a spirit of self-reliance, innovation, initiative and imagination;
  • to enable students to make their contribution to society in an effective way;
  • to create tolerant and caring members of society.


Subject Objectives:

The objectives of SPHE are that:

  • students will have experience of group-work / group discussion;
  • students will have experience of having their voice heard;
  • students will have experience of research activities;
  • students will have experience of action activities;
  • students will acquire basic knowledge and understanding of the development of the person as a human being;
  • students will know their rights and responsibilities as human beings;
  • students will have an understanding of personal development at all levels that affect them.
  • Students will develop life skills to effectively cope with challenging and/or anxiety provoking situations



Time Allocation:

  • SPHE is allocated one class period per week in all Junior Cycle classes

Options Structure:

  • SPHE is a mandatory school subject at Junior Cycle
  • All students take SPHE to Junior Certificate. It is not an examination subject at present

Grouping of Pupils:

  • First Year, Second Year and Third Year classes are mixed ability groups.

Class Organisation:

Junior Cycle classes generally contain twenty five to thirty individual students. The seating plan is pre-set by the class teacher. Roll calls are taken at the beginning of the day for school records and each subject teacher takes a roll of his / her class for his / her own record.



  • This school year in conjunction with the Principle we rolled out team-teaching in all First and Second year classes.
  • Team teaching involves a group of two or more teachers working together to plan, conduct and evaluate the learning activities for the same group of learners.
  • The team-teaching approach allows for more interaction between teachers and students.
  • Classroom organisation: It is the responsibility of the teachers to do the following:
  • Do we need to organize the room in a particular way?
  • Remind children of the rules
  • Training the children
  • Explain the objectives for the session: learning and behavioural
  • Introduce the lesson
  • Teachers may use a variety of co-teaching models:







Textbooks and Course Materials:

Year Textbooks Course Materials
1st Grow Up

by Stephanie Mangan



Minding Me 1: My Well Being by Fiona Chambers, Anita Stackpoole & Anne Jones

Handouts from Grow up

Healthy Living – first year book by Brian McAnley



Handouts from Minding Me

2nd Grow Up

by Stephanie Mangan



My Friends Youth: Skills for Life by Dr. Paula Barrett.


Minding Me 2: Fiona Chambers, Anita Stackpoole & Anne Jones

Handouts from Grow up

Healthy Choices – by Brian McAnley

My Own Two Feet


Handouts from My Friends Youth




Handouts from Minding Me



Grow Up

by Stephanie Mangan

(used by teacher)


My Friends Youth: Skills for Life by Dr. Paula Barrett.


Minding Me 3: Fiona Chambers, Anita Stackpoole & Anne Jones

Handouts from Grow up

Healthy Choices – by Brian McAnley

My Own Two Feet


Handouts from My Friends Youth



Handouts from Minding Me






My Friends Youth Programme:

The My Friends Youth Programme is a 20 week programme and will be covered by all 2nd Year Students with top up classes for 3rd Year students.

‘My Friends Youth’ is a school-based positive mental health programme that promotes emotional resilience and reduces anxiety in children and adolescents.

The Programme aims to help students become confident, lifelong learners and supports the key competencies of the Irish Curriculum. It is designed for students aged between 12 and 15 years. The programme was developed by Dr Paula Barrett, the founding director of Australia’s Pathways Health and Research Centre.

Common mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, often appear first during adolescence and can have a serious effect on students’ behavior, learning, and achievement. All students need to develop strategies to prevent the escalation of anxiety, which, if left untreated, can lead to depression.


The programme aims to promote Emotional Wellbeing by teaching students how to Self-Regulate (You are the boss of your own feelings) and to Self-Sooth (Helping yourself feel better) and to normalise emotions.

My FRIENDS Youth is based on extensive research into the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression and has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation. It has been shown to help build students’ resilience – their ability to overcome anxiety and to cope with difficult and challenging situations.


The Friends acronym stands for:


Remember to Relax

Inner Helpful Thoughts

Exploring Solutions and Step Plans

Now Reward Yourself

Do it Everyday

Stay Strong Inside


What is involved?

My FRIENDS youth is run by teachers within each school as part of the SPHE programme. It consists of 10 sessions, some of which are run over more than one lesson. Usually two classes per session.

  1. Introduction – understanding what the My FRIENDS programme is about
  2. Feelings – being aware of your own and others’ feelings
  3. Friendship and confidence
  4. Relaxation and mindfulness – being aware of yourself, others, and your environment
  5. Inner thoughts – turning unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones
  6. Using “self-talk” to challenge unhelpful thoughts
  7. Exploring solutions – working out a “coping step plan”
  8. Problem-solving – a five-step plan
  9. Handling conflict. Now reward yourself!
  10. Applying what you’ve learnt. Do it every day. Stay strong!

It will be broken up as follows:


Year Content
Second Year 1.Introduction – understanding what the My FRIENDS programme is about

2.Feelings – being aware of your own and others’ feelings

3.Friendship and confidence

4.Relaxation and mindfulness – being aware of yourself, others, and your environment

5.Inner thoughts – turning unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones

6.Using “self-talk” to challenge unhelpful thoughts

7.Exploring solutions – working out a “coping step plan”

8.Problem-solving – a five-step plan

9.Handling conflict. Now reward yourself!

10.Applying what you’ve learnt. Do it every day. Stay strong!


Third Year:


There are Two Booster Sessions available in the programme.

These will be covered in the latter part of Third year which will be very helpful to students coming up to their Junior Certificate Examinations





Planning for Students with Special Needs:

All teachers have access to information on students with special needs in their classes. Further information or explanation will be provided if needed by the Learning Support teachers. The methodologies in SPHE are more supportive of students with special needs than many other academic subjects.





Cross-Curricular Planning:

SPHE is a subject where there are many cross-curricular elements. In particular it links with subjects such as Religion and CSPE. It is important that the development of the programme also includes teachers of the subjects above. In this way unnecessary repetition is avoided and best use can be made of SPHE time. Teachers of the subjects listed above are given a copy of the curriculum content of each of the three years.

The SPHE Department will have monthly themes that will be put up on the staff notice board. Subject teachers would bring in an aspect of this theme into their classes. Themes that will be covered are Bullying, Friendship, Emotions, and Relationships etc.


Subject Planning for a Culturally Diverse Society:

The emphasis in this subject is on promoting active self-awareness also promoting health education and personal development. It also fosters an understanding and critical appreciation of the values – moral, spiritual, religious, social and cultural which have been distinctive in shaping Irish society.


It promotes quality and equality for all including those who are disadvantaged through economic, social, physical and mental factors. In the development of their full educational potential, group based classroom assignments and discussions promote the inclusion of students into the school. Teachers will take the diverse cultural backgrounds of students into consideration before dealing with potentially sensitive issues in class.


Raising Awareness:

Gaelcholáiste Mhuire A.G. plays a vital role in the promotion of positive mental health throughout our school community. We will raise awareness by celebrating calendar events such as:

  • Mental Health Week
  • World Suicide Prevention Day
  • Stand Up! LGBT Awareness Week

There will be events organised in the school during these days/weeks.



Effective Teaching Methodologies:

The Department of Education and Science emphasise the need for active learning methodologies in SPHE. As such the following methodologies are particularly appropriate for SPHE: class discussion, group-work, debate, role-play, drama and visits from outside professionals.


Range / Variety of Resources:

Use is made of textbooks and resource materials mentioned earlier. Material is also obtained from newspapers and magazines. Guest speakers are invited to do presentations to classes on certain topics.


Curriculum Content

This education programme provides students with dedicated time and space 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.


Not every topic would take a whole class period, while other topics may require a number of class periods.

The My Friends Youth Programme will also be covered throughout the year.


Year 1

  1. Starting Secondary School – Coping with Change
  2. Making Friends
  3. Getting to Know your New School
  4. Homework and Managing your Time
  5. Communication – learning to listen and express yourself
  6. Friendship
  7. Personal Hygiene
  8. Healthy Eating
  9. Time to Relax
  10. Peer Pressure – Bullying
  11. Respect and Self Esteem
  12. Personal Safety
  13. Emotional Health- Recognising Feelings and Emotions, Coping and Problem Solving
  14. Influences and Decisions
  15. Relationship and Sexuality Education: Puberty, The Reproductive System, Sexual Orientation
  16. Substance Use: Drugs, Tobacco, Alcohol.
  17. Metal Health




Year 2:

  1. My Friends Youth Programme
  2. Motivation and Goals
  3. Study Skills
  4. Criticism and Compliments
  5. Bullying
  6. Nutrition and Exercise
  7. Body Image
  8. Relationships with Parents
  9. Mental Health
  10. Influences and Decisions
  11. Medicine and Drugs
  12. Alcohol
  13. Pregnancy and Birth



Year 3

  1. Who am I
  2. Love or Lust
  3. Conflict in Relationships
  4. Exam Focus
  5. Visiting the Doctor
  6. Preventing Disease
  7. Depression
  8. Drug Abuse
  9. Teenage Pregnancy
  10. Teenage Parenting
  11. HIV and AIDS
  12. Grief
  13. Child Abuse
  14. Suicide
  15. Mindfulness
  16. Coping With Exams
  17. Stress Management
  18. Feeling & Moods
  19. My Friends Youth Programme Booster Sessions.






















Curriculum Content Breakdown:



OSPS: An Teasats Sóisearach

Bliain 1
Seachtain Méid Ranganna Caibidil

Leabhar: Grow Up

1 1 Ag Tosnú An Méan Scoil 8 Seachtain Téarma 1
  Ag cur aithne ar do scoil
2 1 Ag déanamh cairde nua
3 1 Meas agus Féin-Mheas
4 1 Meas agus Féin-Mheas
5 1 Cén chineál foghlaimeoir mé?
6 1 Obair Bhaile agus Bainistíocht do ám.
7 1 Cumarsáid- ag foghlaim conas éisteacht agus conas tú féin a chur in iúil
8 1 Cairdeas    
9 1 Sláinteachas Pearsanta 7 Seachtain Téarma 2
10 1 Bia Sláintiúil
11 1 Bulaíocht
12 1 Ag ligeant do scíth
13 1 Piarbhrú
14 1 Sábháilteacht Phearsanta: Ar scoil, Sa Bhaile, Ar na Boithre
15 1 Sábháilteacht Phearsanta: Ar an tIdirlíon  (Cyberbullying)
    Leabhar: Minding Me 1    
16 1 Sláinte Mhothúchánach

Ag Aithint Mothúcháin

Stráitéisí déileáil agus Réiteach Fadhbanna

6 Seachtain Téarma 3
17 1 Sláinte Intinne


18 1 Scileanna Déileáile: Ag déileáil le amanna diana
19 1 Ag Fáil Cabhair
20 1 Tionchair agus Cinntí

Ag Deanamh Cinní

21 1 Mo Loachraí

Being Yourself

22 1 Oideachas Caidrimh agus Gnéasachta (RSE)

Caithreachais: Cad é atá ann? (Puberty)

Na hathruithe a tharlaíonn le linn ógántachta

5 Seachtain Téarma 4
23 1 An Córas Atáirgthe
24 1 Íomhánna den Fir agus Mná

Buanchruthú inscne (Gender Stereotyping)

25 1 Féinmheas agus Meas ar Daoine Eile    
26 1 Claonadh Gnéasach:

Meas ar Gnéasach: Rights, Respect, Responsibility

27 1 Scileanna Staidear 5 Seachtain Téarma 5
28 1 Úsáid substaintí: Drugaí
29 1 Ag Caitheamh Tobac
30 1 Alcól
31  1  Athbhreithniú ag deireadh na bliana





























An Teasats Sóisearach

Bliain 2
Seachtain Seisiúin Leabhar: My Friends Youth Skills For Life    
1 Seisiúin 1: Introduction to the Group Activity 1: Different Aspects of my Life

Activity 2: My Personal Goals

8 Seachtain Téarma 1
2 Introduction to the Group Activity 3: Thinking about my past Successes to feel strong inside.

Be Mindful: Build Your Inner Strength

Session Close

3 Seisiúin 2:


Understanding Feelings

Step 1: F= Feelings

Activity 1: Understanding Body Clues

Activity 2: Feeling Charades

4 Feelings:

Understanding Feelings

Activity 3: “Catching our Emotions”

Activity 4: Being a Strong Communicator

Empathy Skills: Understanding Different Feelings

Activity 5: Practicing Empathy

Session Close

5 Seisiúin 3:

Let’s focus on Confidence

Activity 1: Introduction to Confidence and Feel good Activities.

So what is Confidence?

Activity 2: Feeling Safe in Difficult Situations

6 Let’s focus on Confidence Activity 3: True Friend are hard to find: Friendship Skills

Feeling Good about Yourself and Others

Session Close

7 Seisiúin 4:

Learn to Relax, Focus on the Present and Become More Aware

Step 2: R= Remember to Relax

Activity 1: Why is Relaxation Important?

Activity 2: Relaxing Massage

Activity 3: Mindful Eating


8 Learn to Relax, Focus on the Present and Become More Aware Activity 4: Ideas for how I can Relax

Laughter as a way of Relaxing

Activity 5: Simple Breathing Relaxation that most athletes use

Session Close

9 Seisiúin 5:

Your Attention Flashlight- Your Powerful Thoughts

Activity 1: Your Attention Flashlight

Step3: I= Inner Helpful Thoughts

Activity 2: Helpful, Powerful Reminders

7 Seachtain Téarma 2
10 Your Attention Flashlight- Your Powerful Thoughts Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours Are all Connected

Activity 3: The Thoughts- Feeling – Behaviour Pathway

Thoughts are just thoughts! They are Temporary

Activity 4: Thougtht Challengers

Session Close




Seisiúin 6:

More Attention Flashlights and Thought Challengers

Changing Old Habits

Activity 1: Using Thoughts to Change Feelings

Activity 2: Three Steps for Positive Solutions

Activity 3: Your Attention Flashlight

12 More Attention Flashlights and Thought Challengers Activity 4: Attention Flashlight/ Changing Thoughts Reflection

Activity 5: The Happy Movie

Session Close

13 Seisiúin 7:

Exploring Solutions and Step Plans

Step 4: E= Exploring Solutions and Step Plans

Activity 1: Brainstorming Ways to Cope

14 Exploring Solutions and Step Plans Introduction to Step Plans

Activity 2: Create Your Own Step Plan

15 Seisiúin 8:

Another Way to Solve Problems

Activity 1: My Step Plan

Introduction to the 5 stage Problem-solving Plan

Activity 2: Using the 5 Stage Plan to sort out Solutions

16 Another Way to Solve Problems Activity 3: Support Teams

Activity 4: Discussion Using Mindfulness

Activity 5: Role Models

Session Close

6 Seachtain Téarma 3
17 Seisiúin 9:

When the Going Gets Tough: Making & Keeping Friends

Activity 1: My Step Plan

Activity 2: Keeping the Peace (Even when it’s hard)

Activity 3: The Calm way to handle Conflict

18 When the Going Gets Tough: Making & Keeping Friends Activity 4: Managing Bullying

Step 5: N= Now Reward Yourself

Activity 5: Success is Trying

How to be More Assertive

Session Close

19 Seisiúin 10:

Using the Friends Skills to Help Ourselves and Others

Activity 1: My Step Plan

Step 6: D= Do it Every Day

Activity 2: Be Prepared for Future Challenges


20 Using the Friends Skills to Help Ourselves and Others Activity 3: Your Developing Brain

Step 7: S= Stay Strong Inside

Activity 4: Thinking to Help us to Behave ina Moral and Ethical Way

21 Using the Friends Skills to Help Ourselves and Others Activity 5: Feeling Good Through Helping Others & Giving Back to the Community

Activity 6: Helping Someone this Week

Activity 7: Building School, Family & Community Spirit

Session Close

    Leabhair: Grow Up agus Minding Me    
22 1 Relationships and Sexuality:

  • From Conception to Birth
5 Seachtain Téarma 4
23 1 Relationships with Parents
24 1 Dealing with Anger
25 1 Medicines and Drugs


26 1 Exam Focus

Study Skills

27 1 Emotional Health

  • Self Confidence
  • Body Image
5 Seachtain Téarma 5
28 1 Physical Health

  • Body Care & Body Image
29 1 Mental Health

  • Developing Positive Mental Health
30 1 Personal Safety: Safety on the Internet
31  1 Athbhreithniú ag deireadh na bliana















An Teasats Sóisearach

Bliain 3
Seachtain Méid Ranganna Caibidil

Leabhar: Grow Up, Minding Me 3 & My Friends Youth

1 1 Goal Setting for 3rd Year 8 Seachtain Téarma 1
  Exam Focus
2 1 Organising My Time

Study Timetable

3 1 Study Skills
4 1 Who am I?
5 1 Love or Lust?

  • Boyfriend/Girlfriend Relationships
  • Homosexual Relationships
  • Not in a Relationship
6 1 Conflict in Relationships

  • Respect for each other.
  • The 3 R’s: Respect, Rights & Responsibilities
  • Dealing with Conflict
7 1 Depression

  • What is it?
  • Signs
  • How to Deal with Depression
  • Suicide
8 1 Grief    
9 1 My Friends Youth Booster Session 1:

Activity 1: My Step Plan

Activity 2: Review the Friends Plan

Activity 3: The Friends Plan and Me

7 Seachtain Téarma 2
10 1 Activity 4: Time to Think about Giving Back

Activity 5: My Friends on the school website

Activity 6: My Friends Poster

11 1 Stress
12 1 Relaxation
13 1 Teenage Pregnancy
14 1 Teenage Parenting
15 1 HIV and Aids
16 1 Choice Making:

  • Making a Good Decision
6 Seachtain Téarma 3
17 1 Body Image: Self Esteem

Eating Disorders

18 1 Visiting the Doctor

Preventing Disease

19 1 Drug Abuse: Ecstasy & Heroin the Realities
20 1 Abuse
21 1 Review of Study Skills & Study Timetable
22 1 My Friends Youth  Booster Session 2:

Activity 1: Friends Letter Game

Activity 2: Preparing for Future Challenges

5 Seachtain Téarma 4
23 1 Activity 3: Positive Healthy Friendships

Activity 4: Awareness about Habit Formation

24 1 Activity 6: Sharing Positives

Places of Support

25 1 Personal safety:

  • Responsibility for your own Personal safety
  • Recognising Unsafe Situations
  • Violence
26 1 Safety on the Internet & on Mobile Phones    
27 1 Mindfulness 5 Seachtain Téarma 5
28 1 Coping With Exams
29 1 Stress: Managing Stress
30 1 Feelings & Moods
31  1  Athbhreithniú ag deireadh na bliana























Teaching methodologies:

  • Case study
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making Exercises
  • Simulation Games
  • Role Play
  • Modelling
  • Presentation and Interpretation of Data
  • Self-Assessment Activities
  • Discussion
  • Group Work and Team Work
  • Activity Based Learning
  • Project Work and Research
  • Use of I.C.T. Facilities
  • Reflection
  • Poster Work
  • Video clips, interviews
  • Speakers


Homework Procedures:

Homework in this subject is different to other academic subjects on the curriculum, but homework has the value of the student reflecting on the learning that has taken place in class. It enables students to reflect on the work they have done. It can be written assignments, action projects and reflection. The subject teacher will decide the most appropriate assignment to the class. Students will have to keep an SPHE folder with all coursework and sheets that are done in it.


Assessments / Examinations Procedures:

SPHE is not assessed for the Junior Certificate therefore no examination of the subject takes place at present. However students will be evaluated on their SPHE folder and ongoing in class assessments.

Record Keeping Procedures:

The Subject Teacher will keep a record of all assignments carried out in class. He / she will discuss these with the student’s parents should the latter request them.


Availability / Use of ICT Facilities:

SPHE classes generally take place in the class group’s base classroom. The computer room is timetabled. There are 30 school iPads with broadband connection that can be brought into the classroom if needed. Every classroom in is equipped with a computer with broadband Internet access and a data projector. There are two computers with broadband Internet access in the Staffroom.


Provision for Health and Safety Requirements:

The school has a comprehensive Health and Safety Policy. All staff members are familiar with the policy and aware of the fire drill and emergency evacuation procedures for the classrooms where they are based. SPHE classes generally take place within the class group’s base classroom.



  • Explanation of all key terms
  • Text rich classrooms with posters and visual aids displayed
  • Keyword used in sentences and phrases to embed understanding
  • Written assignments such as letters, reflections, etc. used to develop literacy and comprehension skills
  • Comprehension text pieces such as case studies with questions are used regularly to improve literacy and comprehension skills
  • Comprehension strategies explicitly taught.



  • Students are taught data collecting, recording, interpreting and analysis skills
  • Students are taught how to present data in pie charts, graph’s e.g drawing up timetables for study plans etc.



Teacher In-Career Development:

  • Regular self-evaluation of work
  • In service availed of where possible



Approved by the Board of Management: Date: 3rd May 2017

Cathaoirleach an Bhoird Bhainistíochta:

Date of review: May 2019