'Overwhelming' support for school consent classes by parents

'Overwhelming' support for school consent classes by parents

An “overwhelming” number of parents want teenagers to be taught how to understand consent as part of fact-based relationship and sex education (RSE), according to the National Parents Council Post-Primary (NPC-PP).

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, a programme of consent classes are to be rolled out in post-primary schools in early 2020 following the success of the workshops in universities.

“We’re supportive of this,” said Paul Rolston, NPC-PP’s communications director.

“We consulted with a number of student unions at third level who told us they encounter these issues with students as soon as they land in the door of first year.”

The NPC-PP previously conducted a survey of parents as part of the ongoing review into the RSE curriculum, Mr Rolston added.

“An overwhelming number of parents were of the view that they want proper, informed and factual information around RSE so that their children can make informed decisions,” he said.

“The RSE survey saw well over 1,000 responses and showed a demand from parents for factual information to be taught in schools, and that includes teenagers understanding about asking and giving consent.”

When asked what age students should be when taking the class, Mr Rolston said: “The general advice is that when your child starts asking questions, that is the best time to engage with facts and information.

It can be difficult for some parents to engage with their children on the topic and might leave it to the school.

However, more and more teenagers turn to the internet with their questions and could be at risk of picking up “misinformation”, said Mr Rolston.

Schools should consider holding information nights for parents ahead of any such classes, to give them an idea on how to handle any questions or queries their children might have, he added.

“Schools are autonomous but we believe the roll-out of such classes should be done in consultation with parents,” said Mr Rolston.

Teens learn best from discussions that link the home with school.

As previously reported by this newspaper, the number of students attending ‘Smart Consent’ workshops on college campuses last year skyrocketed by more than 600%.

This was due in part to a number of high-profile rape cases.

More than 4,000 college students have taken the voluntary workshop since it was first launched in 2015.

Following that success, the Smart Consent workshops will be launched in schools in early 2020.

Pádraig MacNeela and Siobhán O’Higgins, from NUIG’s School of Psychology, part of a team that developed the workshops, said that the programme has been adapted to suit the age profile of school students.

“We’ve started to redevelop workshops and test them out in schools, working with parents being on board and being the allies you want them to be,” said Mr MacNeela.

The organisers say they now plan to work with various networks and groups to reach young people aged between 16 and 24 years old through third level, second level, and in sports clubs.

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