Public Health England

The Department of Health have published a paper about the structure of the body that will determine how public health services develop over the next few years.

For us this is important as Public Health England (PHE) will replace the National Treatment Agency and some of the functions of the Department of Health itself when it comes to drug and alcohol services.  This chance gives us a chance to increase the profile of prevention within substance misuse interventions and therefore hopefully to continue to drive down the use (and misuse) of drugs and alcohol by young people.

The new structure includes a big team of over 500 people in the health improvement and population health directorate (see above) who will be accountable for developing:

a 21st century health and wellbeing service, supporting local authorities and the NHS to deliver improvements and reduce inequalities in the nation’s health.

They will be tasked with:

  • securing high-quality professional public health advice and support to the NHS Commissioning Board to effectively influence the NHS role in prevention and reducing health inequalities
  • championing the use of behavioural science in achieving transformational change
  • building credible national and international alliances to promote health and wellbeing and secure a broad-based programme for reform within Government, the NHS, the independent sector, the voluntary and community sector, and internationally

To do this they will:

  • lead high-impact national health improvement social marketing campaigns to achieve behaviour change
  • share capability and lessons across the public health system and assess promising approaches ahead of local adoption
  • embed prevention and health improvements that reduce the burden of disease

School Exclusion Data from England

I’ve done some analysis of the Department for Education’s figures around fixed term and permanent exclusions from school for drug and alcohol issues.  The department have today released figures for 2010/11 and I’ve dug around in their data archive to look back to 2006/07.

The department’s analysis of the broader data is as follows:

  • There were 5080 permanent exclusions from state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and all special schools in 2010/11.
  • In 2010/11 there were 271,980 fixed-period exclusions from state-funded secondary schools, 37,790 fixed-period exclusions from state-funded primary schools and 14,340-fixed period exclusions from special schools.
  • The average length of a fixed-period exclusion in state-funded secondary schools was 2.4 days, for state-funded primary schools the average length of a fixed-period exclusion was 2.1 days.
  • The permanent exclusion rate for boys was approximately three times higher than that for girls. The fixed-period exclusion rate for boys was almost three times higher than that for girls.
  • Pupils with SEN with statements are around nine times more likely to be permanently excluded than those pupils with no SEN.
  • Children who are eligible for free school meals are nearly four times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion and around three times more likely to receive a fixed-period exclusion than children who are not eligible for free school meals.

Rumours about the curriculum review

The TES report that the Department for Education stopped working on the secondary national curriculum last July.  They say:

Ministers do not want to abolish the secondary national curriculum as has been widely reported, TES can reveal. But they do intend to replace the existing curriculum with “very, very short” programmes of study that will give teachers “extreme” and “almost total” freedom over what is taught.

This contrasts with the draft primary curriculum which was criticised for being overly prescriptive.

As far as I can tell what this might mean for PSHE education and within that drug education is that there will be very little central guidance on what should be taught, or how.

We should recall that the government’s drug strategy promised two things for schools:  revised (and simplified) guidance on how schools can help prevent drug and alcohol use, and a place where the DfE will share teaching materials and lesson plans from successful schools and organisations online and promote effective practice.

As far as I can tell the government believe that they have delivered the former (though I would dispute this) and I haven’t seen any action on the latter.

Health Behaviour in School Aged Children

Taking The World By Storm - photo by Flickr user JD Hancock
The World Health Organisation have just published the findings from the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children survey, which focuses on the social determinants of health and well-being among young people, including their drug and alcohol use.

The survey has comparable data from young people in England, Wales and Scotland as well as from across Europe.

As you’ll see there are a number of policy reflections that the authors have which are useful collateral for us.

Alcohol

The report says:

School-based intervention programmes focusing specifically  on alcohol use and targeting adolescents and their parents  have considerable effects. Generic, psychosocial and  developmental, school-based prevention programmes  focusing on life skills and a healthy lifestyle in general are  also effective and could be considered as policy and  practice options.

They also report that family interventions are effective in delaying the onset of drinking and reducing the frequency of drinking.

Cannabis

As with alcohol the report is clear that school based prevention programmes can be effective:

Interventions in schools that focus on  increasing drug knowledge, decision-making  skills, self-esteem and resistance to peer  pressure effectively reduce cannabis use.

They also say that Motivational Interviewing has been effective in working with young people who have started to use cannabis.