The Consent Issue


New survey finds children and young people aren't being taught about consent in school

Media release: 8 January 2014

A survey of children and young people conducted by the Sex Education Forum, based at leading children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau, has found that almost one in three say they did not learn about consent at school. 

Children and young people were even less likely to have learnt ‘what is good or bad in a relationship’; with only 43% saying this had been covered in sex and relationships education classes at school, with many describing a complete absence of discussion about real-life relationship situations and what you would do ‘should something happen’.

Although findings showed that formal teaching about sexual consent was woefully lacking, many young people did demonstrate an understanding of the legal age of consent (96%), and the law relating to sexual offences; with 93% of respondents  recognising there could be female sex offenders and 84% understanding that men could be victims of rape.

Despite this grasp of the law, the study revealed that a large proportion of young people are considerably less confident about where to get help when they need it; with 1 in 3 young people saying that they either ‘didn’t know’ or were ‘unsure’ where to get help if they were sexually assaulted and 4 in 10 unsure where to find their local sexual health clinic.

The survey results, released to coincide with the publication of a new resource for teachers on consent, showed that many young people did not know that under-16’s are entitled to receive confidential contraceptive and STI treatment; with less than half confident that a 15 year old could get a HIV test without a parent or carer being told, and only a third aware that a 14 year old could get contraception confidentially.

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum said:

“This survey confirms that the quality of sex education children receive is a lottery. Young people are telling us very clearly that teaching is often too theoretical and fails to deal with the real-life practicalities of getting help and advice or building the skills for pleasurable, equal and safe relationships. Learning about consent is integral to good quality sex and relationships education and every school should have a planned programme which includes content on bodily boundaries, gender and power, caring for one another, feelings and emotions and how to get help and advice. We need to listen to the evidence and make high-quality sex and relationships education a guarantee across all schools.”


The Consent Issue of the Sex Education Forum’s E-magazine - designed to help teachers deliver high-quality sex and relationships education – is available from the NCB online shop and is free for Sex Education Forum members.  


For more information please contact the National Children's Bureau's media office on 0207 843 6045 / 47 or email For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.


Notes to editors 

About ‘The Consent Issue’ and survey
The magazine is a product of the Sex Education Forum and published by NCB. The views expressed are not necessarily the views of the Sex Education Forum’s members.

890 children and young people aged 14 to 25 took part in the survey - the majority of respondents were aged 16 or 17.

The Sex Education Forum
The Sex Education Forum is the national authority on sex and relationships education (SRE). We believe that good quality SRE is an entitlement for all children and young people and we are working with our member organisations - including religious, children's, parents and governor, health and education organisations - to achieve this. For further information visit:

About the National Children's Bureau
The National Children's Bureau (NCB) is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues. For more information visit