Transition year students to have access to sexual consent workshops

NUI Galway researchers devise new national ‘active consent’ programme

Transition year schools will have access to sexual consent workshops and classes under a new national initiative.

NUI Galway researchers, who were the first to introduce consent programmes for students at third level, are now developing "active consent" workshops aimed at students aged 16 and older.

Dr Pádraig MacNeela of NUI Galway said researchers will partner with a range of schools and other organisations over the next four years to help ensure young people can feel more confident and skilled in communicating with their partners about intimacy.

He said the approach will be tailor-made to schools, based on feedback from pupils, and will involve workshops, drama, training, videos and online resources.


The programme – which will also be made available for sports organisations and other third-level colleges – will aim to promote critical thinking about pornography, backed up by an online platform on consent education for students, parents, and teachers.

“There is a unique team behind this programme, from psychology and sexual health promotion, to drama and theatre studies,” Dr MacNeela said.

“ We are combining Irish research data with proven youth-engagement methods and the creative arts to support a full range of sexual consent messaging.”

The "Smart Consent" programme is being funded by a philanthropic organisation, the Lifes2good Foundation, in partnership with Galway University Foundation and NUI Galway.

Separately, UCC is due to launch a new online programme to encourage all its students to intervene or speak up where they see objectionable behaviour.

The “bystander intervention programme” educates students about consent and the boundaries surrounding sexual assault, rape and abusive relationships.

This online version of programme is now being made available to some 22,000 students at UCC.

Minister with responsibility for higher education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who is due to launch the initiative on Monday, said it would help to build a culture of “zero tolerance” around sexual harassment and violence, both on and off campus.

“Making this resource available via an online platform allows for greater levels of participation,” she said.

She said engagement with the programme “ will help with the attitudinal and cultural changes that are necessary to eradicate the instances of unwanted or inappropriate behaviour that individuals can be subject to”.

The programme, developed by Dr Louise Crowley of UCC's school of law, aims to empower and upskill students to safely intervene and demand a safer campus and society.

It is premised upon the fact that, as members of society, every person is a bystander to many events and is thus often positioned to act or intervene.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor has called for a collective national standard for higher-education institutions to support consent and respond to sexual violence on campuses.

She has convened an expert group which is due to report back soon to help devise national standards which she says all higher-education institutions will have to implement.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent