A sexual consent education programme for second-level schools is being launched, which aims to encourage debate and awareness around the issue of consent for sexual activity.

Devised by researchers at NUI Galway over the last two years, the programme includes workshops for 15-17 year olds, seminars for parents and resources to increase critical skills when it comes to topics like body image, pornography and consent.

The schools programme can be integrated with existing sexual health initiatives and projects.

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said it will equip secondary school students with self-confidence to speak up if there is something happening that they are not comfortable with.

Ahead of the launch, researchers surveyed 600 second-level students to ascertain their views on the issue of consent.

The results showed that 93% of females agreed that consent was always required for sexual activity, with 79% of males sharing this view. But almost a fifth of males were 'neutral’ as to whether consent was always required, compared to just 6% of females.

Almost two-thirds of respondents agreed that consent for this activity always needed to be verbal.

The research also identified a gender gap in personal comfort with being sexually intimate with someone they had just met at a party, with females less likely to be comfortable than males. While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 51% of males said they were comfortable.

Being awkward, embarrassed, or being afraid of being judged emerged as key barriers to consent communication.