The NSW Catholic school sector will lead its own review of how it delivers sex and consent education in a religious context, saying a “one size fits all” approach across the state is unlikely to fix the problem of teenage sexual assault.
A three-person panel has been tasked with assessing how Catholic schools in NSW teach about consent and respectful relationships, as well as their mandatory reporting obligations, after an online petition last month exposed thousands of sexual assault allegations among school-aged children.
Catholic Schools NSW chief executive Dallas McInerney said the internal review would help deliver “greater reassurance for our families and students” about the sector’s approach to issues of peer-on-peer abuse and student harassment, and that parents would be central to any response it considers.
“While schools are uniquely placed to respond to these challenges, and help shift attitudes and behaviours fundamentally, this begins at home and this is central to the Catholic teaching of parents as the primary educators of their children,” he said.
The review will be helmed by Dr Anne Wenham, a director at the NSW Education Standards Authority and former school principal, Peter Grace, executive director of the Council of Catholic School Parents, and Sydney barrister Jane Seymour.
Mr Grace, who also helped develop NESA’s PDHPE syllabus, said the panel would examine the curriculum materials, programs, pastoral initiatives and particular examples that individual schools and teachers use to teach about sex and consent.
He acknowledged some Catholic school graduates had signed the petition by former Kambala student Chantel Contos calling for earlier and more holistic education in schools, but said that was a matter for parents rather than the Catholic school sector as a whole.