MSPs call for sexual consent education across all of Scotland’s schools 

Change ‘inconsistent’ teaching of sexual consent education in school, MSPs demand

MORE EFFORT IS REQUIRED to provide comprehensive sex and relationships education, especially in the area of consent education, in schools - according to the MSPs tasked with investigating the issue. 

A new report by Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee on personal and social education highlighted inconsistent access to teaching on the issue of sexual consent.

“The issue of consent and what it means must be covered,” the report advised. “The evidence received indicated strongly that this is not currently covered consistently within PSE [Personal and Social Education].”

“Young people tell us that prior to our workshops, they were unaware of what the law on rape and consent was.” Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis Scotland 

Improving access to inclusive lessons on sex and relationships has largely focused on the work of the Time for Inclusive Education (Tie) campaign, which has called for extra support in the area of LGBT-inclusive education. 

While the report found some improvements in teaching - drugs and alcohol misuse was said to be “thoroughly covered”, for instance - raising awareness of the nature of sexual consent was found to be a significant challenge. 

Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland told CommonSpace: “Recorded sexual crime in Scotland is at a record high. Rape Crisis Scotland coordinates a prevention project working in schools across Scotland with young people on issues of consent. 

“Young people tell us that prior to our workshops, they were unaware of what the law on rape and consent was, or that having sex with someone who is incapable of consenting because they are very drunk is rape. This needs to change.  

“Young people tell us how important it is that they receive information on this issue, and how much they value it being delivered by an outside agency. The Scottish Government recently released their draft action plan on tackling violence against women and girls. It failed to address the issue of the need for education on consent, or make any commitment to ensure all young people in Scotland have access to this. 

Read more - Anni Donaldson: "Gonnae no’ dae that!" How students are learning about sexual consent

“This is a significant omission. We believe that if the Scottish Government is serious about tackling violence against women, they must commit to ensuring every young person in Scotland has access to education around consent and healthy sexual relationships.”

The MSPs’ report pointed out evidence collected by the Terence Higgins Trust that 75 per cent of young people in the UK has not learnt about consent in schools. 

Clare Clark from Sexpression:UK had told the committee: “Consent is a massive issue, but it seems not to be coming across to young people. There is clearly a gap. That is demonstrated by the fact that we are having to do consent classes in universities. 

“We are letting people leave school with no information about consent, and we are having to cover it in universities.”

Read more - It took me 10 years to understand I'd been raped: we need to talk about consent

The committee added: “Evidence suggested that the breadth and depth of SRE [Sex and Relationships Education] in some schools is insufficient, specifically that it does not always include key aspects of SRE such as consent.”

The number of sexual crimes recorded by the police in Scotland, which includes rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault - increased by 7 per cent from 9,557 in 2014-15 to 10,273 in 2015-16.

Sexual crimes are at the highest level since 1971, which was the first year of comparable crime data.

Police Scotland state that the increase in sexual crime figures may in part be due to increased reporting. 

Picture courtesy of Strathclyde Student Association

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