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Secondary school curriculum to be updated to address issues like domestic violence and consent

Education Minister Norma Foley said that education has a “very significant” role to play in the new Zero Tolerance strategy.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee speaking at the launch of the domestic, sexual and gender-based violence strategy today.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee speaking at the launch of the domestic, sexual and gender-based violence strategy today.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

CHANGES TO SCHOOL curriculums to include topics like consent, domestic violence and coercive control are set to be brought in by the Department of Education, as part of a new domestic, sexual and gender-based violence strategy.

The Zero Tolerance strategy, launched today by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, will see further women’s refuge places created alongside harsher punishments for assaults causing harm.

Under the strategy, curriculums for both primary and secondary schools will be updated, with changes to secondary schools set to include consent, domestic violence, coercive control and safe use of the internet.

Speaking at the launch, Education Minister Norma Foley said that education has a “very significant” role to play in the strategy, saying that work has already been undertaken to ensure students have access to information on issues like domestic and sexual violence.

“There’s an acknowledgement that we live in the 21st century, our students need to have the confidence and skillsets themselves to look at issues around sexual harassment, identifying bullying,” said Foley.

We’re not just talking about written documentation, we’re talking about the manner in which we implement it, so skilled staff to implement it, a curricula which meets the issues of the day, which are around consent, coercive control, domestic violence, internet safety and healthy relationships.

“We’re clear of what the issues are, we’re very clear that our staff need to be skilled to deliver it.”

Currently, the junior cycle curriculum is set to come into effect in September 2023 while the senior cycle curriculum will be brought in by September 2024. For both primary and secondary schools, the anti-bullying procedure is set to be reviewed and updated alongside these curriculum changes.

Foley said that the Department is currently “quite along the way” in putting the curriculum in place in schools.

McEntee said that the launch of the strategy needs to change attitudes towards domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, saying that people should not turn a blind eye.

“I have to be honest with you… We can develop policy, we can put in place new laws, we can put in place new curriculum, we can work with each and every one of you but I cannot insert myself into the Whatsapp group and call out the type of behaviours,” said McEntee.

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“We all have a role to play here in the delivery of policy and services and the direction that we can provide, but it’s each and every one of us: each individual, each man, each woman, making sure that we play our part.

“That we play a role in making sure that we achieve that overall goal, the overall objective along that journey and that is absolutely zero tolerance of any kind of domestic, sexual or gender-based violence.”

Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said that misogyny has “no place” in Irish society.

“We all have to be clear with each other, that there’s simply no place in society for misogyny,” adding that there are plans to double the amount of women’s refuge spaces around the country. 

About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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