Lesson 16 of 23
Two 50-minute class periods

Eric's Decisions and Consent

From the Unit:

Essential Questions

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

Guiding Questions

  • Why do some people have power over others, and how can an imbalance of power impact how we communicate and interact with others?
  • How do some people misuse the power which they possess? 
  • What is consent and why is it important to understand consent?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will complete a power anticipation guide, and discuss the impact that power has on relationships both in An Inspector Calls and in the world beyond the text. 
  • Students will read a testimony from a victim of sexual assault and apply what they learn from this testimony to their understanding of consent and its importance.


In the previous lesson, students explored the character of Mrs Birling, assessing which factors impacted her treatment of Eva Smith and constructing a graphic representation of her universe of obligation based on her words and actions in the play. Such exploration deepened student understanding of her character, and of the impact that society and identity have on shaping our choices and behaviour towards others.

In this lesson, students will continue to consider the impact of our choices and actions on others, whilst also thinking about the role that power plays in the decision-making process. Power, or the abuse of power, in An Inspector Calls is central to the characters’ interactions with Eva Smith (and each other). It is vital for students to consider this theme in the play and also examine how power can influence how they communicate and interact with others in their own lives. Once students understand the complexity of power, they can reflect on the power they possess in their lives and understand how, when regarded responsibly, power can be used as a force of good. 

Students will also consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters of An Inspector Calls, focusing especially on the relationship between Eric and Eva. The interactions between Eric and Eva provide a lens through which students can examine the connection between power and responsibility. Eric’s sexual assault of Eva, implied in the dialogue in Act Three, reveals that Eric abused his position of power and provides the opportunity to discuss with students the issue of consent. As some students studying this text will be of the age in which they may be embarking on relationships, it is vital to have discussions about consent with them – it is a complex issue and one that requires attention and thought. However, given the potential difficulty of this topic, it is important for the classroom to be an environment in which students feel safe, and for the teacher to be prepared in case the topic touches on any trauma that the students have experienced. 

In addition to reading the play, students will read an excerpt from the victim statement of Chanel Miller, the woman who was assaulted by Brock Turner in California in 2015. The excerpt used in this lesson does not touch on the graphic nature of the assault; rather, it focuses on the victim’s desire for the perpetrator to take responsibility for his actions. We advise against sharing the statement in full as there are elements which are quite disturbing. Students will then have the opportunity to discuss consent scenarios in groups before reflecting in their journals.

Students will also watch a video on consent which is promoted by Thames Valley Police. This video approaches consent by comparing it to offering tea. This simplistic approach, whilst effective, can be problematic in how it turns the topic of consent into a potentially humorous subject. If you do show students this video, discuss the post-viewing questions, which include thinking about any potential criticisms of the video.

The activities in this lesson refer to pages 50–5 of the Heinemann edition of An Inspector Calls.

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

  • Comparison and Evaluation Skills (Lang-AO3/AO4)
  • Critical Reading (Lit-AO1/AO3, Lang-AO1/AO4)
  • Critical Thinking  (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Reading Comprehension (Lit-AO1, Lang-AO1)
  • Spoken Language Skills (Lang-AO8, Lang-AO9)

Students employ critical thinking skills to consider power: what it is, how it manifests itself in society, and the different forms that power takes. Then, having acted out a scene from the play, they critically and thoughtfully consider the power dynamics present in that scene, taking into consideration both the relationships between the characters and Eric’s treatment of Eva Smith. The drama boosts their spoken language skills and gives them a creative avenue through which to access the play, whilst the assessment of the play employs their comprehension and critical reading skills. Students unpack Eric’s behaviour in relation to Eva Smith further and use their inferencing skills to focus on a specific quotation from the play. Additionally in this lesson, students employ their comparison and evaluation skills when they read Chanel Miller’s victim statement, considering its content and its relevance to An Inspector Calls. The use of discussion and writing throughout gives students the opportunity to verbalise their thoughts and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.


Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification

Notes to Teacher

  1. Consult School Counsellors before Teaching the Lesson

    If you have a new class, we recommend that you discuss the content of the lesson with teachers who have previously taught the students to see if they know any reasons why this topic might be difficult for any of them. It is also worth speaking to the school counsellor or safeguarding team and informing them about the discussions that will be happening. You can ask them for support or even share the list of students who are going to be doing the lesson, to avoid triggering something without there being adequate emotional support in place.

    It is also important to tell students that if the lesson does impact them that they can come and talk to you or the school counsellor. You should also stress your duty to report any safeguarding issues.

  2. Classroom-ready PowerPoint Slides

    Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson. The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

Eric's Decisions and Consent

Eric's Decisions and Consent

This PowerPoint for Lesson 16 of the Teaching Inspector Calls unit comes complete with student-facing slides and teaching notes, and is ready to use in the classroom.



Part I

  1. Reflect on Power
    • Explain to students that they will be reflecting on the notion of power in this lesson, thinking about how it manifests itself in the world of the play and in society. 
    • Hand out and have students complete the What Is Power? Anticipation Guide handout.
    • Give students time to discuss and share their responses in small groups. They can share their definitions of power and compare answers for the ranking exercises, looking for similarities and differences.
    • If there is time, you may ask some students to share their ideas with the class.
  2. Act Out the Next Section of the Play
    • Before reading the next section of the play, consider starting with a range of warm-up drama activities. 
    • Explain to students that they will be acting out a section of the play in groups, before reading it as a class. If possible, it is worth moving the tables out of the way so students have space to act out the scene. Invite students to read power into their roles using their voices and body language to communicate power when necessary. 
    • Divide students into groups of five and ask them to read the section from the start of Act Three (p. 50) to where the Inspector says, ‘Stop!’ (mid p. 55). They will need to take on the following roles: Eric, Inspector, Mrs Birling, Sheila, and Mr Birling.
    • After ten minutes, ask one group of students to perform the play to the class (not all students need to be from the same group). If needed, assign students parts and their relevant props, and ask them to perform the section of the play. 
    • Ask those not acting to identify and annotate points in the text when the characters do or do not have power. They can use their What Is Power? Anticipation Guide to help them think about the different ways in which one has power. See the Anticipation Guides teaching strategy to learn more about using Anticipation Guides. 
    • After the group has performed for the class, give students the opportunity to discuss the following questions in pairs using the Think, Pair, Share strategy before facilitating a class discussion:
      • How do the characters use their power in this section of the play?
      • How do characters abuse it?
      • What gives the different characters power? 
      • How is power in this section of the play linked to identity and social context?
  3. Re-reflect on Power
    • Invite students to return to their What Is Power? Anticipation Guide and respond in their journals to the following questions:
      • How has reading the play impacted your understanding of statements on the power anticipation guide?
      • How, if at all, can your definition of power be developed? 
      • Would you alter any of the rankings that you gave the statements?

Part II

  1. Reflect on Eric's Behaviour
    • Explain to students that in this lesson, they will begin to focus on one part of Eric’s behaviour in relation to Eva Smith and will be discussing consent. Given the serious nature of the lesson, we recommend that you spend time reviewing your classroom contract with the students to encourage the creation of a safe space.
    • Project the following section of the play from pages 51–2 on the board:
      ERIC: Yes, I insisted – it seems. I’m not very clear about it, but afterwards she told me she didn’t want me to go in but that – well, I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty – and I threatened to make a row.
      INSPECTOR: So she let you in?
      ERIC: Yes. And that’s when it happened. And I didn’t even remember.
    • If needed, give students a brief review of inferencing (see the Learning to Infer strategy for ideas). Remind students of some of the inferencing strategies they used in previous lessons: understanding vocabulary in context, figuring out who or what pronouns represent, and tapping into prior experience and knowledge of context. Also remind students of the ‘It Says/I Say/And So’ formula they used to help craft inferences earlier in the scheme of work. 
    • Then, ask students to respond in their journals to the following prompts. Project the questions one at a time so students have time to process and write about each one.
      • What do you think prompted Eva Smith to let Eric in when she did not want to? 
      • What can we infer the ‘it’ that happened is? What makes you say that?
      • What can we infer from Eric’s statement as a whole?
    • Give students the opportunity to discuss the questions in partners using the Think, Pair, Share strategy before leading a short class discussion to check that students are on track with their inferences.
  2. Learn about Sexual Consent
    • Explain to students that in the rest of the lesson, they will be exploring the concept of sexual consent, and that as part of this exploration they will be reading an excerpt from the statement written by a victim of assault. This excerpt does not go into details of her assault, but it contains her message to the perpetrator and outlines some major issues concerning how assault is dealt with in society. 
    • First, show students the video Tea and Consent (2:49). Then, project and give students five minutes to discuss the following questions using the Think, Pair, Share teaching strategy before fielding ideas from the students:
      • What is consent? Define it in your own words. 
      • Why do you think the video uses tea to explain consent? Is this comparison effective or ineffective? What makes you say that?
      • What criticisms might people have of this video and how it deals with a serious subject matter?
  3. Read a Sexual Assault Victim Statement
    • Give students the reading Stanford Sexual Assault Victim Statement. Ask students to follow the text as you read it aloud, underlining anything that stands out to them or that they find troubling. Prompt them to recall their discussions about power, gender, and class in previous lessons as they annotate.
    • Give students the opportunity to have a personal response to Miller’s statement in their journals so that they have space and time to process their thoughts. Use the following questions if desired:
      • How does reading Chanel Miller’s statement make you feel? 
      • How is hearing Miller’s personal testimony in her own words different from reading a scene about an assault in a play or learning about it from the news?
    • Next, lead a short class discussion clarifying any queries and fielding questions from the students. If desired, use the following questions as prompts:
      • Miller tells Turner that he has ‘decades of years ahead to rewrite [his] story’. What does she mean? What does this response suggest about her? 
    • Then, divide students into groups and project the following questions on the board. It is important to circulate whilst students are discussing these questions, so that you can monitor what is being said:
      • What power did Brock Turner have over Chanel Miller in the situation? How did he abuse it? How did he try to excuse his abuse of power? 
      • How does Miller say her identity changed as a result of the sexual assault? What does this change teach us about identity? What does it teach us about the impact of our choices? 
      • Miller wanted Turner to take responsibility for his actions. Why do you think this is the case? What does this tell us about the power of owning up to our mistakes?
      • Miller’s real-life sexual assault occurred over one hundred years after and in a different country from the fictional assault of Eva Smith. How is Miller’s experience similar to or different from that of Eva Smith? How has society changed, if at all?
  4. Complete an Exit Card on Consent
    • Finally, give students the Consent Exit Card handout to complete. Students can also do this on paper or in their books, but if they do so, ensure that they hand their work to you in a readily accessible way at the end of the lesson.
    • It is important to review what students write to ensure that you can address any misunderstandings with the class or with individual students.


Discuss Consent Scenarios

Help students deepen their understanding of the notion of consent by examining scenarios and making connections between the play, Chanel Miller’s testimony, and their own lives. Students work in groups of four to discuss different scenarios regarding consent using the Consent Scenarios handout. Then, facilitate a class discussion where students have the opportunity to feed back and ask questions. We recommend concluding this extension activity with a private journal reflection so students have time and space to process their learning.


Democracy & Civic Engagement

Get Prepared to Teach this Scheme of Work in Your Classroom

Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Building a Classroom Community

Students work together to create a contract with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, which is conducive to learning and sharing.

Lesson 2 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Where I'm From

Students prepare for reading the play by considering the relationship between the individual and society, and by reflecting on identity. After discussing a poem about identity, they write their own.

Lesson 3 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Social Inequality

Students explore social inequality in the UK, discussing how an individual’s background can impact their opportunities before examining graphs that display social inequality and employment trends.

Lesson 4 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Priestley's World and the World of the Play

Students learn about important events that occurred during Priestley’s lifetime, completing a human timeline to understand their chronology, and are introduced to the concepts of socialism and capitalism.

Lesson 5 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Treatment of Edwardian Women

Students examine various resources, including excerpts from Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, to gain an understanding of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society.

Lesson 6 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Entering the World of the Play

Students begin reading the play, having applied what they have learnt about Priestley and the relevant sociohistorical context to make predictions about its content.

Lesson 7 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Class

Students explore class, status, etiquette and hierarchy to deepen their knowledge of the social expectations and values which guide the world in which the characters live.

Lesson 8 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Developing Character Inferences

Students are introduced to the concept of inferencing; they draw inferences from the opening scene of the play, and consider what messages Priestley sends through the language, character and setting.

Lesson 9 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mr Birling

Students study the character of Mr Birling, critically assessing Priestley’s presentation of him, before using the character to reflect on how identity can influence people's views and behaviour.

Lesson 10 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Cost of Labour

Students explore the moral codes of the world of the play, before being introduced to the concept of a universe of obligation and participating in a debate on workers’ rights.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to Parliament

Students write a persuasive letter to Parliament concerning the gig economy, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model letter.

Lesson 11 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Sheila

Students use the character of Sheila to further understand the interplay between identity and choices, before going on to analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One.

Lesson 12 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

Lesson 13 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

Lesson 14 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analysing Gerald’s Character

Students develop their understanding of the character Gerald, exploring the differences between his treatment of Eva/Daisy and Sheila, whilst reflecting on Edwardian gender expectations.

Lesson 15 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mrs Birling

Students consider what factors impacted Mrs Birling’s treatment of Eva Smith, and create a universe of obligation graphic representation for her character.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

Students write an analytical paragraph on character having generated claims, selected evidence and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 16 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Eric's Decisions and Consent

Students consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters, focusing on the relationship between Eric and Eva, before discussing consent.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Speech about Consent

Students write a persuasive speech for sixth-form students on the importance of consent, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 17 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.

Lesson 18 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Social Systems and Individual Agency

Students identify the parts, people, and interactions of various social systems, thinking about what bearing they have on character choices and behaviour, before considering responses to injustice.

Lesson 19 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Putting the Characters on Trial

Students finish reading the play and participate in a court trial to decide which character is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.

Lesson 20 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

Students reflect on Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and consider the symbolism of having a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: The GCSE Character Essay

Students write an essay on character having generated claims, selected and annotated evidence, and read a model essay.

Lesson 21 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Students address the essential question of the unit in a people's assembly, reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from An Inspector Calls.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.

Lesson 22 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Recurring Themes in the Play

Students prepare to write an essay on theme by identifying and analysing the themes explored in the play.

Lesson 23 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Theatre as a Call to Action

Students consider theatre as a call to action, discussing its power and limitations to spark real social change, before plotting their own play inspired by An Inspector Calls.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with Ofsted Requirements

Read about how this unit assists teachers and schools in fulfilling a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements as outlined in the 2019 Ofsted inspection handbook.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

Read about how this unit is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs.

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