Schools Consent Project: getting young people to talk about consent

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Family law Associate, Georgia Holmes, and Trainee Solicitor, Alicia Perry-Watts, have been providing training to young people in Bristol and the South West area on sexual consent, as part of the Schools Consent Project.

The Schools Consent Project is a UK-wide initiative that empowers young people aged 11-18 with the skills, confidence and knowledge they need to make safe and healthy choices around sexual consent.

The charity provides volunteer-led workshops that are simple, accessible and interactive. The aim is to support young people to understand what consent looks like, how it can be sought, given, withdrawn and withheld, how the law protects them, and how to partake in open, honest conversations with their peers about it.

What is consent?

Consent is defined as an agreement, made by choice, by a person who has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. It is an ongoing process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with.

In the UK, the legal age to be able to consent to sexual activity is 16. However, the training also discusses situations where age is not the only consideration when it comes to consent and the law.

Any sexual contact without consent is illegal regardless of age, relationship, gender, sexuality and any previous interaction.

Why is the Schools Consent Project so important?

Consent can be a complex concept to understand, especially for young people. Communication around it may be uncomfortable, intimidating and awkward, whether in new and unfamiliar situations or with an existing partner or peer. This training also highlights issues these young people may not have considered in regard to consent and where they may be putting themselves at risk. This training seeks to protect not only the participants but their friends and family members, too.

Sadly, research by Rape Crisis England and Wales shows that one in 20 children in the UK has experienced sexual abuse involving physical contact. This is at least one student in every classroom.

All people, especially young people, should know that they have the right to autonomy over their bodies and to be confident that their wishes will be respected by others.

Barcan+Kirby’s involvement in the Schools Consent Project

Georgia Holmes and Alicia Perry-Watts, in our specialist Domestic Abuse team, have been getting involved in the project. So far, Georgia has delivered training over Zoom, and she hopes that raising awareness in the South West will mean that more workshops can be provided in-person to local schools.

The workshops focus on:

  • What consent is
  • How to seek, give, identify, withdraw and withhold consent
  • Individuals’ rights and responsibilities
  • Sexual consent laws in the UK
  • How to access and provide support around consent

These topics are addressed through open conversations and interactive games that challenge harmful behaviour at age-appropriate levels. The Schools Consent Project workshops provide a safe, engaging and open environment to talk about the sensitive topic of consent, sexual relationships and communication.

“I came across the Schools Consent Project by chance and felt that this was something that would have been enormously beneficial when I was in school. Historically, sex education has been focused on not having sex and how not to get pregnant. Recognising that teenagers will have relationships and focusing instead on making those relationships safe and healthy felt like a huge step forward. I wanted to help provide the knowledge that was missing when I was growing up.”

– Georgia Holmes

Are you interested in arranging training for your school or youth group?

For more information, or to arrange a workshop on consent, get in touch with the Schools Consent Project by emailing with your contact details, the name, address and postcode of your school, and the names of your primary and secondary safeguarding or wellbeing leads. Visit their website for more information.


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