The NSW Department of Education has worked with parents and carers to identify the resources they would find useful to support discussions with children and young people about respectful relationships, including consent.
If you are concerned for your safety or someone else’s safety contact the police and emergency services on Triple Zero (000). If you have experienced violence or sexual assault and require immediate or ongoing assistance contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) to talk to a counsellor from the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence hotline.
Parents and carers have requested support in helping their child understand what is meant by consent and to have confidence in decision-making.
This website includes an overview for parents and carers on content included in the school curriculum on consent, along with a select number of Department resources to help guide discussions with children and young people.
We will continue to integrate the findings from the November 2021 Parent and Carer Survey and focus groups into our ongoing work to strengthen consent education in NSW.
Visit the Department’s Working together to strengthen consent education for more information.
You may also like to watch a recording of a 2021 P&C Federation webinar on the Statement of Intent to inform parents and carers about consent education that exists within schools NSW P&C Federation and the NSW Department of Education consent education webinar.
Consent in Education
Consent is a concept embedded in child protection education. Child protection education is part of broader respectful relationships education in our schools.
Consent is also addressed through sexuality education programs reflective of the NSW Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) K-10 syllabus. The curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge and skills students need to develop and enhance respectful relationships, including understanding and negotiating consent. From Kindergarten to Year 12, learning about consent is explored through different situations that students may be exposed to, including online and offline environments.
Consent is taught in NSW public schools in age-appropriate ways. The concept is integrated with learning about influences on decision making (such as peer pressure, alcohol or other factors), problem solving skills, ethical behaviour online and offline, and the body – including bodily autonomy and other relevant content and issues.
All activities used in our classrooms rely on a positive and strong trust relationship between the teacher and the students in their class, as well as positive relationships with parents and carers, as teachers determine the time and emphasis given to all syllabus content to ensure it reflects the needs of their students.
Grouped learning of consent
The decision to group consent learning in either single and/or co-educational classes is made at the local school level. It is a question that arises often and there is no clear-cut answer. Teachers often use a mix of single sex and mixed sex student groups in the classroom. This will depend on the student cohort. Parents and carers and students can raise questions about cohorts with the classroom teacher.
Schedule of consent learning
We know from the research related to effective respectful relationship education that:
- one-off lessons are not sufficient and therefore students need the opportunity to revisit the content over time to build understanding and skills
- programs should include activities focused on skill development and be interactive.
Therefore, this content needs to be explicitly timetabled to ensure regular touchpoints across a term, a year, and a stage of learning. This promotes consolidation and allows students to progressively build their understanding and skills. This learning can also be supported through discussions at home. Schools are encouraged to address this content each year as a minimum. The emphasis and time allocated are determined by the school and teacher.
Content of consent learning
Some members of the community including students can consider aspects of PDHPE and Life Ready to be sensitive. This includes aspects which address abuse, consent, violence, drugs and alcohol and sexual behaviours.
The Department’s Controversial issues in schools policy provides guidance and direction for the management of these issues in schools.
Schools are advised to work with parents to inform them of the specific details of the program, so that parents and carers can make informed decisions about withdrawing their child from a particular session. This should be done before the learning begins.
Parents and carers can visit the child protection education section of the Department's website to explore what their child will learn at each stage. The PDHPE syllabus is also publicly available on the NSW Education Standards Authority website.
Learning about consent was strengthened in the new K-10 PDHPE syllabus, after extensive consultation with academics, community, students and teachers. This syllabus was implemented in all NSW schools for kindergarten to year 10 from 2020.
The new and strengthened K to 10 PDHPE syllabus focuses on:
- respectful and positive relationships
- the clear and age-appropriate teaching of consent.
These changes are reflected in both primary school content and high school content. The resources developed by the NSW Department of Education to support this important learning have been updated annually since 2020.
Consent at each school stage
At the beginning of primary school, the syllabus facilitates opportunities for students in Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 to learn about:
- the body’s reaction to a range of situations, including safe and unsafe situations, and comparing the different emotional response
- parts of the body which are private and the concept of privacy
- how people have the right to give consent and tell others not to touch their body when they do not want to be touched
- the right to say yes or no to affection, e.g. tickles, hugs, kisses
- appropriate touch and how to respond to inappropriate touch
- people that can help in different situations, e.g. when hurt, upset or sad
- ways of seeking help in a range of different scenarios, e.g. call 000 during an emergency, use No-Go-Tell when feeling unsafe.
In Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4), students who are 9 or 10 years old would build upon the learning in previous stages by learning rights and responsibilities in relationships, types of abuse, power in relationships, protective and help-seeking strategies.
The Department’s resources support students to:
- practise responses and strategies to promote personal safety in unsafe situations, including ways to assertively communicate messages through activities such as role plays
- explore a wide range of scenarios and describe the difference between an accident and abuse.
In Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) students – who are 11 or 12 years old – extend their understanding of consent and rights and responsibilities in relationships and learn skills and strategies to develop new respectful relationships and maintain them.
They would do this through activities such as:
- role plays which allow students to identify where consent has been given and where rights and responsibilities are respected. Students would describe how to respond to situations where a person does not respect their rights and suggest strategies to resist coercion.
In Stage 4, which is Years 7 and 8 where students are aged 12-14, the focus of the learning is on:
- understanding the laws related to consent and age of consent in NSW, and the importance of consent as part of a respectful relationship – with a focus on sexual or intimate relationships
- demonstrating the skill of assertive communication and strategies to protect themselves and others, including ways to clearly ask for and receive consent.
The activities in the classroom for this learning would include:
- explicitly investigating the laws of consent and applying those laws to scenarios
- using case studies and scenarios to identify examples of sexual consent and where it has been given and received.
Resources for parents and carers
In Stage 5, (Years 9 and 10) where students are aged 14-16, the focus of the learning is on:
- practising negotiation of boundaries in a range of scenarios. As different scenarios are provided to students, they would work together to predict some potential problems that may arise when it comes to negotiating consent and develop solutions to overcome these barriers
- practising the use of personal skills to communicate their boundaries and give and receive consent clearly in a range of situations such as an intimate relationship, or refusing requests from people to send sexual images or videos
- linking the concept of consent to the sharing of images online (ethical behaviour online and offline).
Resources for parents and carers
Students in Years 7-10 with a disability, particularly an intellectual disability who are not able to access the regular PDHPE outcomes and content through adjustments, can undertake the PDHPE Life Skills outcomes and content.
Through the PDHPE Life Skills outcomes and content, students will develop the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to develop and enhance positive, respectful relationships, including understanding and negotiating consent.
The Life Ready mandatory 25-hour course in NSW public schools promotes respect, responsibility, enjoyment, inclusion and social justice for self and others. The course content is divided into six relevant and contemporary learning contexts, of which one is relationships and one is sexuality and sexual health.
Through Life Ready, students learn about promoting safety, equality and respect in relationships. They also learn about negotiating consent as part of safe and ethical behaviour.
Learning experiences and activities are designed to address challenges and situations that account for the wider social context within which young people operate. This includes social situations where exposure or use of alcohol and drugs may influence behaviour. It also refers to the wide range of relationships (online and offline) which young people can and will experience.