Children are to be taught about sexual consent from the age of 11, in plans announced by education secretary Nicky Morgan yesterday.
Consent lessons for secondary pupils will be taught as part of the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) curriculum. It is believed schools will be encouraged to teach the lessons as soon as the summer term this year.
In a Sunday Times article, Ms Morgan said: “We have to face the fact that many pressures girls face today were unimaginable to my generation and it’s our duty to ensure that our daughters leave school able to navigate the challenges and choices they’ll face in adulthood.”
The lessons are outlined in a pack developed by the PSHE association and teach children about coercive and manipulative behaviour.
The PSHE Association said the guidance to be given to young people will say: “If consent is not clear, informed, willing and active, it must be assumed that consent has not been given. If consent is not clearly given, or is given and then subsequently retracted, this decision must always be respected.”
The group said the lessons will be age-appropriate and that while sexual activity before the age of 16 is illegal, pupils should also learn about consent before they are sexually active to “help them keep healthy and safe from abuse and exploitation”.
Last month the education select committee recommended that PSHE and sex and relationships education be made statutory.
The PSHE Association said it was “deeply disappointed” Ms Morgan did not respond to this recommendation.
PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said: “While government support for our work is welcome, this alone is inadequate.
“In not acting on the Education Select Committee recommendations, the government is missing a crucial opportunity to ensure that all children receive education to keep themselves safe and healthy.
“It is particularly concerning that the government has also failed to listen to the victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham who were, according to the Jay report, “scathing” about the education they received on this area.
“We need the government to commit to making PSHE statutory now to ensure that children are not let down in this way again.”
It is also unclear how the lessons can be required in academies whose funding agreements enable the school to set their own curriculum.