Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Questions (87)

Joan Burton


87. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address sexual harassment of staff in higher education institutions; the work programme of the new Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40697/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Higher Educations Institutions have a duty of care to their staff and students, and a responsibility to foster a campus culture that is clear in the condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours.

In April 2019, my Department published a Framework for Promoting Consent and Preventing Sexual Violence in Irish HEIs (Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive - Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions). This Framework aims to ensure the creation of an institutional campus culture which is safe, respectful and supportive.

The Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in the HEA was established in June 2019 to ensure sustainable acceleration towards gender equality in third level institutions by providing centralised support, sharing of good practice, and funding for innovative organisational and cultural change initiatives nationally. Institutional Gender Action Plans (a requirement for Athena SWAN certification and of the Gender Action Plan 2018-2020) address the area of sexual harassment through actions such as improving reporting levels and carrying out dignity and respect training. Progress on the implementation of the 2018 Higher Education Gender Equality Task Force Action Plan and the 2016 Expert Group recommendations, is monitored by the HEA as part of its annual Strategy and Performance Dialogue process with higher education institutions.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) undertook a review of RSE in schools and published its draft report in July 2019. A public consultation is currently underway to ensure that the findings and the related draft advice is reflective of the needs of students, schools and parents. This consultation process closes on 25 October. It is expected that the review will be completed in later 2019.