Department for Education
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New and improved guidance for schools sends out a clear message about the dangers of drugs and alcohol

All schools should have clear plans for dealing with incidents involving drugs and alcohol on the school premises.

Schools Minister Diana Johnson today launched a consultation on new guidance for schools to ensure that teachers, parents and the Government are working together to send out a clear message that drug, alcohol and tobacco misuse among young people is unacceptable and could damage their futures.

The Minister said that schools play a crucial role in tackling drug misuse and supporting young people. It is important for schools to educate pupils about all kinds of drugs; including medicines, tobacco and alcohol as well as classified illegal drugs.

As well as giving advice on how to handle drugs education in the classroom, the guidance stresses the importance of schools having clear policies in place to deal with incidents with illegal drugs and alcohol on school premises. Heads are also encouraged to forge stronger links with other local services to help them better identify and support over a million children and young people who live with one or both parents who have a drug or alcohol problem.

The guidance will also encourage teachers and families to work more closely together, so that clear and consistent messages are given out both at home and at school.

Schools Minister Diana Johnson said:

“Drug and alcohol education is vital, and we know that the majority of schools are doing a great job in talking to pupils about the dangers of illegal drugs. This has contributed to the steady decline in young people’s drug use since 2001. I’m pleased this new guidance offers more advice on alcohol, because while the proportion of teenagers who drink regularly is falling, those who do drink are drinking more. Tackling drug and alcohol misuse in schools is therefore crucial.

“But education can’t just happen in the classroom, and this new guidance challenges schools to work more closely with parents so children get clear and consistent messages - both at home and at school.

“All school-aged children need good drugs education, and that means drugs education appropriate to their age and maturity. So, for example, in primary school children should be learning about medicines and how they can affect the body, while in secondary school, young people should be introduced to the law relating to drugs and how substances like alcohol, tobacco and cannabis can damage their mental and physical health.”

Stephen Burgess, Chairman of the Drug Education Forum, said:

“Children want much better drug education and we must respond.

“Schools have a hugely important part to play in making sure that the information that children and young people receive about all drugs is accurate and credible. We are sure that this guidance will be welcomed by all those that work to help children and young people avoid the harms that drugs can do.

“The Drug Education Forum welcomes the renewed focus on alcohol in this guidance. We know that while fewer young people are drinking those that do are doing so more heavily than before. Schools should be confident that children and young people see teachers as one of the most important sources of information about alcohol.

“Our understanding of what works in protecting children and young people continues to develop and so it is timely that there is new guidance which incorporates the latest lessons in preventing drug misuse.”

Research is clear that good drugs and alcohol education in schools goes a long way towards preventing the early onset of drug use, and can also help reduce consumption in those who are already using. Pupils also tell us that the lessons they receive are an important source of information about drugs.

While this guidance is not statutory, and schools are able to determine their own drugs and alcohol curriculum, this proposed new version gives examples of areas that teachers could explore with pupils to get them thinking about how substance misuse could affect them or their families.

The new guidance will help support schools to put together their drug and alcohol curriculum until September 2011 when PSHE – which includes drug, alcohol and sex and relationships education – is expected to become a compulsory subject for all school aged children in England. This guidance will then form the basis of new guidance on statutory drugs education as part of PSHE. The revised guidance also in part fulfils a commitment from the Youth Alcohol Action Plan to implement the recommendations of the drug and alcohol education review, and outlines the Chief Medical Officer’s advice and key guidelines on young people and alcohol, announced earlier this year.

Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'

1. The public consultation on the guidance Drugs: Guidance for Schools can be found here: . The consultation closes on 15 February 2009.

2. The plans are based on recommendations from an independent group of teachers, governors, young people, faith groups and experts, which said that while the vast majority of schools already have robust policies on drug education, many need to do more to also highlight the effects of alcohol.

3. The findings from Blueprint (a major, multi-strand drug education programme) showed that the vast majority of Blueprint pupils reported that the lessons they received were an important source of information about drugs (see for further details) and pupils consistently report that lessons on drugs help them think about the risks of taking drugs and to avoid taking drugs (Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use amongst Young People in England 2008).

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