Respectful relationships, consent education and moral courage

An update from the Principal

As the nation responds to calls for respectful relationships and more effective consent education in the wake of the Contos petition, at IGS, our work with The Ethics Centre is gaining momentum.

I am pleased to share with you that I recently met with leaders at The Ethics Centre, Relationships Australia NSW and Youth Insearch. We discussed how to continue to develop in our students the moral courage to navigate the complex issues many will face in relation to trust, building and maintaining relationships, belonging, bystander effect, consent and bullying, and more.

We expect to be working closely with the Centre next term on developing a research-based “Moral Courage” project.

The Centre has identified a number of themes and patterns, including:
• The issues are systemic and are not unique to school cultures. They also involve families, peers and communities, including our national parliament.
• Any solutions that address these challenges require parental and community engagement along with broader discussion at a government and societal level.
• Solutions need to be consultative and co-designed with students to ensure their relevance and impact. We want to develop young people in the school community as leaders in relation to these critical issues. The Centre will partner with Youth Insearch to tap into their deep experience in peer-led models, so that students help identify the problems and issues, and co-design solutions.
• We want to create self-sustaining solutions; to embed the skills and practical knowledge into our IGS culture.
• A parent forum or module is envisaged, to help parents speak with and listen to their children. Relationships Australia NSW is a critical partner in this program given their deep skill in this area.
• Moral Courage as a program title has strong resonance with most principals, connoting a strength-based approach while recognising that it is a challenging area.

At this stage, a program in Moral Courage is expected to become part of our wellbeing program, while complementing the PDHPE curriculum.

The Ethics Centre is already working in partnership with Education NSW to develop Key Learning Area resources and the capability of teachers to build Ethical Understanding as part of the Stage 4/5 curriculum (Years 7 to 10) across PDHPE, English, Mathematics, Science and History.

We want the solution to develop student leadership capability and to embed it over time as part of generative change, so that our senior students have a positive influence and create a legacy.

We expect to build the capacity of students to navigate challenging social situations, to understand the ethical considerations and to ultimately make better choices in those unstructured moments, while remaining socially connected.

First steps

During the co-design process, a number of focus groups will meet in Term 2. These one-hour sessions, of up to 15 participants, will draw on the student leaders’ views, to explore the following areas, to begin shaping the program elements:

• The challenges students face in living and acting on their values and principles
• How they feel they are able to raise issues and speak up when faced with challenges: who they discuss things with, how and why
• How to talk about sex and other issues related to vulnerability: navigating, negotiating and communicating with partners, friends and parents
• What it means to “belong”: navigating peer pressure, acceptance and rejection
• Navigating boundaries: knowing how to identify boundaries and how to discuss them, and how to think about and manage perceived “losses” in making values driven decisions, for example fears of having less social standing
• The focus groups will also explore the practical skills students feel they need to better navigate these challenges, and to identify the activities, resources and support that can best help them.

From there we will develop a solution that includes capacity building for students, a parent forum to report on insights gained from the focus groups, and practical solutions/support.

We expect the program will complement initiatives and programs IGS already has in place.

While the initial focus will be on students in Years 9 and 10, students in the younger years will be included as the program takes shape.

I look forward to sharing further updates with you.

Shauna Colnan