Sexual consent programme for second level students launched

Programme for 15- to 17-year-olds developed by Active Consent researchers at NUI Galway

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said the programme will give secondary school students the self-confidence to speak up if there was something happening that they were not comfortable with. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said the programme will give secondary school students the self-confidence to speak up if there was something happening that they were not comfortable with. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A sexual consent education programme for students in second level was launched on Tuesday, which includes workshops for teenagers and seminars for parents.

The programme was developed by Active Consent researchers at NUI Galway over the last two years and is aimed at 15- to 17-year-olds.

It also includes seminars for parents and resources to increase critical skills about topics such as body image, pornography and consent.

The programme aims to teach young people how to be knowledgeable and confident about consent, that consent should be “ongoing, mutual and freely given” and that consent applies for all relationships for all sexual orientations and gender identities.

It aims to help young people recognise the impact of gender, alcohol and drugs on sex and to teach the legal meaning of consent.

The programme will offer a 10-credit professional development module from September, as well as consent workshop training for teachers.

Final year

A student named Flora, who is now entering her final year at school and was involved in developing the programme, said it would be “incredibly beneficial” for young people.

“As someone who’s in a secondary school, I see how young people have misconceptions about consent. Some older people may not realise how bad the education is around it,” she said.

“From being in the classroom you’d hear people sometimes say quite horrible things. It’s important people are getting information now. We want to stop this toxic culture a lot of people have.

“If this was brought into the schools curriculum it would change people’s opinions about these issues,” she said.

Flora added that she had not received “any sex education at all” in school and said “it would be great to have sex education where consent is one of the most important things”.

Matthew Ryan, welfare officer with the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, said this programme is “different from ones in the past because it was made with young people not just for young people”.

“That can’t be understated in how much of a difference that makes to young people. It’s youth-oriented, it uses our language, our vernacular,” he said.

Self-confidence

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said the programme will give secondary school students the self-confidence to speak up if there was something happening that they were not comfortable with.

Having information about consent was “vital” and would help “break cycles”, he said.

While the Active Consent team at NUIG did a good job teaching third level students about consent, it was “crucial we get those conversations happening much earlier”.

Ahead of the launch, researchers surveyed 600 second-level students to learn about their views on consent.

The results showed that 93 per cent of females agreed that consent was always required for sexual activity, and 79 per cent of males.

But one in five males were “neutral” as to whether consent was always required, compared to just 6 per cent of females.