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Letter to Incoming Minister for Education Norma Foley

Dear Minister Foley,

UCD Students’ Union would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister for Education. We note the many positive elements in the Programme for Government relating to the education sector, and wish you well in your brief. When possible, we would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss some of the challenges prospective University students are facing including accessing well-resourced mental health and

disability support services.

We would also like to renew our call for the urgent passage of the “Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill”. Having attended the online launch of the USI’s “Sexual Experiences Survey” report, we were struck by the shockingly high proportion of students who had experienced sexual assault and violence. The findings clearly demonstrate a deeply concerning societal issue, where a huge cohort of students have encountered a traumatic experience relating to sexual assault and rape. We note the following provision in the programme for government “Develop inclusive and age-appropriate RSE and SPHE curricula across primary and post primary levels, including an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships and making appropriate legislative changes, if necessary.”

Access to objective and robust RSE, particularly in relation to consent and establishing respectful boundaries is something that must be prioritised going forward. There is still a huge degree of variance in the nature and quality of sex education that students receive before reaching higher education. Students shouldn’t have their first experience of objective information around consent at a university level, but unfortunately this remains the case in many circumstances.

A clear message needs to be sent out to students on a universal basis from an early age, providing a dual function of educating individual students and also opening up a dialogue around consent. Informing young people of their responsibilities towards their peers is essential, and students should know exactly what resources are available to them when they experience or observe unacceptable behaviour. Implementing the Provision of Objective Sex Education bill or similar legislative measures would demonstrate a clear

commitment on behalf of the incoming government to tackling rape culture in Irish society.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

UCD Students' Union