Conservative MP Nick de Bois asks the Department of Education what estimate they has made of the time schools dedicate to teaching students about the risks associated with (a) illegal drugs, (b) prescription drugs and (c) legal highs.
Liz Truss, the Minister with responsibility for these issues, responds:
The Department does not estimate the amount of teaching time schools dedicate to teaching about illegal or prescription drugs, or legal highs.
All pupils should be educated about the dangers and effects of drugs, and drug education forms part of national curriculum for science. This ensures that pupils are taught about the effects of drugs on behaviour, health and life processes. Provision in this area can be built on and extended through non-statutory personal, social, and health education (PSHE), should schools choose to do so.
Understanding the risks associated with drugs is an important part of young people’s education. To support this we launched the Alcohol and Drug Education Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) on 13 April 2013, run by the charity Mentor UK, which provides high quality information and advice to practitioners, including teachers. The Department is also funding the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) up to March 2014. CAYT have set up an open-access data bank of quality assured impact studies on services and programmes that support the development of young people. The database will enable schools, commissioners and others to choose the best programmes with a strong evidence of impact.
While I’m sure this answer is accurate there are things they could have said that would have answered Mr de Bois’s question in a more straight forward way.
After all, only two years ago the Department published research on the state of PSHE which does tell us something about the amount of time schools spend on drug and alcohol education.
The researchers from Sheffield Hallam University in their mapping exercise found that the majority of schools in England across all Key Stages deliver one session or less a year where they deal with drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Or perhaps they could have cited the Smoking Drinking and Drug use survey that the Department helps to commission. The last annual report found that 40% of pupils had no recall of a lesson on drugs.
Mentor’s own research with young people in London reconfirmed that rather patchy provision with our briefing paper on the issue reporting:
Just over a fifth (22%) of young people surveyed said they had not received any drug education at secondary school. This varied by age: 34% of KS3 students, 12% of KS4 students and 21% of older respondents said they did not remember having any drug education.
Of those who said they had some drug education, a third (34%) said it took place once a year or less. Altogether almost half (48%) of young people were receiving drug education once a year or less often.
Michael Gove is reported to have come to the conclusion that the lack of attention the Department for Education has paid to Religious Education in the last three years has led to it ‘suffering’. This despite the fact that RE is a statutory part of the national curriculum. What chance then for drug education (or the other parts of the PSHE curriculum)?
Mentor is delighted to be delivering the ADEPIS project, but we really need Ministers in the DfE to recognise that health education needs political support, just as RE does, if schools are to find more than an hour a year to help prepare their pupils for the decisions they’ll take about drugs, alcohol and tobacco.