Lessons on ‘consent’ are a valuable addition to RSE and alcohol education for Junior Cycle students

Drinkaware Education Matters Blog

Drinkaware welcomes the announcement of the planned updates to the RSE curriculum, which will include lessons on consent and gender stereotyping. Since its inception Drinkaware’s work in education has focused on a student-led approach, dealing with issues that students feel are pertinent to their lives and their well-being. 

Drinkaware’s Junior Cycle Alcohol Education Programme (JC AEP) aims to enable students to be informed about alcohol and develop the skills, attitudes and behaviours to stay safe and alcohol-free.  It is important therefore, that to be effective the Programme must be relevant to meet the very real needs and address the current experiences of Irish young people.  

While all of the 11 lessons within the Programme encompass aspects of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), the lessons under the themes “Influences” and “Coping” are particularly relevant to the envisaged revised RSE Programme: 

  • The JC AEP’s “Influences” lessons address the impact of social media, messages around alcohol, marketing and advertising with reference to underage alcohol use, staying safe - consent and risk taking, aiming to enable students become critically aware of how to stay safe while learning about the impact of alcohol on safety and consent. 
  • The JC AEP’s “Coping” lessons deal with acceptance of difference, self-acceptance, supporting diversity and inclusion and coping with change. Students are enabled to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs around diversity and how exclusion can impact a person’s ability to cope. Using alcohol to cope, can provide temporary relief from painful emotions but is particularly dangerous for young people due to its short and long-term harm

The high calibre of the Drinkaware Junior Cycle Alcohol Education Programme is explicitly evident in the positive independent evaluation carried out by Maynooth University over a thee year period.   

Regarding the context of RSE, it is worth highlighting the credentials of the Programme’s content creator and Drinkaware Education Manager, Martha Sweeney, who in addition to being a Mater Dei Graduate with extensive experience as a teacher, was a National Trainer for RSE at Primary and Post Primary level and was seconded by the Department to be a Regional Manager with SPHE Support Service/PDST, to deliver in-service to teachers, school management and staffs.  

Commenting on the importance of teaching young people about ‘consent’, Martha Sweeney commented: 

“As adults, we model consent for young people, in the way we listen, how we question,  in our body language, in our ability to connect with feelings and in our responses. Consent involves being in touch with feelings and emotions (our own and others).  It involves safety, respect, comfort and communication. 

Most importantly, consent involves respecting boundaries in order to be healthy both physically and mentally. It empowers people to make decisions and take responsibility. Consent is part of everyday living and not just a one-off lesson. It is included in our programme to support young people as they navigate a world where alcohol is freely available, the related lessons look at the role alcohol might play in consent especially regards underage drinking”. 

Drinkaware’s unwavering priority is student welfare, and we firmly believe that Ireland’s student population deserves evidence-informed alcohol education that is inclusive and accessible to all constituencies across the country. 

If you would like more information on Drinkaware’s alcohol education programmes please email Martha Sweeney.