Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Tackling antisocial behaviour

Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, has been expanding on the Conservative Party’s agenda around tackling antisocial behaviour in a speech to the centre right think tank, Policy Exchange. (See here for our post on a speech Mr Grayling gave the LGA in February.)

In this more recent speech he sets the scene with a story about an estate in the Midlands:

An evening of under-age drinking leading to trouble and nuisance right across the estate.

Not just the occasional under age pint.

But bottles of vodka – bought by disinterested adults – fuelling mounting nuisance for all the other residents – young and old.

And if the police are called, the troublemakers just melt away into back alleyways – or disappear into homes where a small number of inebriated and reckless parents ply them with still more alcohol.

Mr Grayling goes on to say that this sort event illustrates a society that is loosing its way and that action is needed to stop these events, what he calls a “war on antisocial behaviour”.

He is critical of the government’s approach, which he argues is too indiscriminate; dispersal orders apply to those doing nothing wrong as much as they do to those who have been the cause of antisocial behaviour.  He’s also critical of a rights based approach to children’s policy:

When I talked about fewer rights and more wrongs. I was particularly talking about teenagers. It’s about time we learned, as a society, as parents, as teachers, as police, to say no. It’s time we spent a bit more time worrying about the wrongs in our society, and a bit less about the rights of those who are disrupting it.

Mr Grayling argues that schools should be able to exclude pupils more easily, he says:

Teachers cannot be a substitute for effective parenting. 

But schools can set the example even if some homes do not. 

I think we need a firm approach on discipline in schools. 

And we need to back our heads and teachers in enforcing that discipline.

He also calls for long sentences for adults that sell drugs to young people; but of course, as we know from the JRF research into this area, most young people buy their drugs from peers.

Filed under: Conservatives

David Cameron and Chris Grayling on stopping antisocial behaviour

The Conservatives have produced a short video in which David Cameron and Chris Grayling talk about what a future Conservative government would want to do about policing anti-social behaviour.

In a speech to the Local Government Association today, Mr Grayling says:

I don’t want to criminalise children – but I do want our police and our society to be able firmly to say No. Before those young people get used to flouting the law.

The speech put this in the context of public drunkenness and also talks specifically about the problems of illegal drugs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: alcohol, Conservatives

No excuses, no nannying

Andrew Lansley speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in Nottingham (2007). Photo by Simon Scarpa.

Andrew Lansley speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in Nottingham (2007). Photo by Simon Scarpa.

The speech by Andrew Lansley that was trailed over the weekend is now available on the Conservative Party website. The Shadow Secretary of State argues that geotagging spending on healthcare to areas of deprivation isn’t sufficient to tackle health inequalities.

He suggests that a Conservative government would no longer seek to “interfere in the day-to-day management of the NHS”, but that they would separate public health budgets from the NHS service budgets. He also thinks that local Directors of Public Health should sit outside of the PCTs.

There are also other structural changes Mr Lansley is suggesting, which I’ll not touch on.

He then puts flesh on the bones of Conservative thinking about individual social responsibility, which he argues must become a cornerstone of public health policy. He says:

If we are realistic about the impact of social norms and peer influence in affecting behaviour, we must also realise that we should not be ‘nannying’ people. Providing information and example is empowering, lecturing people is not. Supportive rôle models and positive social norms is motivating and empowering, not a drag.

But he says things are somewhat different when it comes to children:

If we change the environment for children – better school food, more school sport, more community sport, more information and awareness of the risks associated with poor diet, smoking, drugs and unprotected and early sex – do we automatically change behaviour?

No. I think it is clear that changing these factors will not be enough. I am convinced that we have to empower young people as well as adults.

Mr Lansley goes on to talk about how he believes a Conservative government will do this.

For teenagers, I believe we also have to think specifically how we can deploy leadership, rôle models and social marketing approaches, not just to warn teenagers about the harm they can do through risky behaviour, but the positive empowerment they can achieve by choosing healthy living.

Other (relevant to us) proposals he makes include:

  • A responsible drinking campaign matched by community action projects to address drug abuse, STIs and alcohol abuse, using a proportion of drinks industry advertising budgets and supported by the Government.
  • Community Alcohol Partnerships, based on the successful example from St. Neots in Cambridgeshire.
  • Clear labelling on alcoholic drinks and a push for the standardisation of labelling where necessary at a European level.

Filed under: Conservatives,

Labour has created ‘timebomb generation’ of teenagers hooked on casual sex, drugs and binge-drinking’

The Mail on Sunday:

A generation of teenagers have become ‘health timebombs’ because of their binge-drinking, smoking, drug use and underage sex, the Conservatives warned yesterday.The scale of the health problems facing those aged 11 to 19 was laid bare for the first time by official figures.

They show the number of young people admitted to hospital for treatment because they have abused alcohol, cigarettes and drugs has soared.

The paper says that the Shaddow Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley MP, is calling for ring-fenced budgets for work on alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Filed under: Conservatives

Let children drink at home, Cameron urges parents

The Guardian report on David Cameron’s Newsbeat interview:

Parents should introduce their children to alcohol at home in order to avoid it causing trouble when they are older, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, said today.

Speaking to a group of young Radio 1 Newsbeat listeners in Newquay, Cornwall, Cameron said children should be introduced to the idea “that drinking is something you can do socially, and something you can do with a meal, and something that is part of life”.

The evidence suggests that Mr Cameron’s advice holds some water, but there are risks involved as well.

On the plus side this paper, Predictors of risky alcohol consumption in schoolchildren and their implications for preventing alcohol-related harm, found that parental provision of alcohol might be a potentially protective factor against risky drinking.  The authors concluded for that to happen:

parents to examine children’s expenditure and perhaps even moderately consume alcohol with them, educating them about its use and providing positive role models for responsible consumption.

Certainly looking at the recent World Health Organisation report you can’t help but notice that Italian children start drinking earlier than in the UK, but are less likely to get drunk.  Possibly that’s down to the family and alcohol cultures that Mr Cameron seems to want to encourage here.

Drug Use, Smoking and Drinking in England in 2007, The Information Centre

Source: Drug Use, Smoking and Drinking in England in 2007, The Information Centre

And in England we have recently seen the numbers of 11 to 15 year olds who say they are not drinking is rising (see graph right).

However, by the time young people reach 15 over 40% say they have drunk alcohol in the last week, and 34% say they drink at least weekly.  The survey suggests that amongst those 15 year olds that have drunk in the last week they drank on average 15 units of alcohol (roughly equivalent to 5 pints of larger).

The same WHO report (which we covered here) says:

It appears that specific characteristics of the initiation into alcohol (such as drinking at family gatherings and feeling drunk) and early drinking styles (drunkenness-oriented consumption) are particularly predictive of later problems with alcohol. Concern has been raised over the extent to which early onset of alcohol use operates as a pathway to the use of illicit substances. [page 143]

They found that, in terms of frequency of being drunk amongst 15 year olds, the Welsh rank 3rd, English 5th and Scottish 8th amongst the countries in the study.

This research suggests that regular drinking is a risk factor for problems in later life:

Regular drinking by age 14 years is a significant risk factor for alcoholism, and genetically informative data suggest that whether a young adolescent abstains or drinks is largely attributable to familial (or other shared) environmental factors.

And, finally, according to the Eurobarometer survey (see here for our precis), only 18% of young people (15 to 24) see alcohol as having serious health consequences, while 81% say that it is easy to get hold of.

All in all, I’d suggest that Sir Liam Donaldson’s forthcoming advice to parents, when it comes, will be stepping into a minefield where what experts, politicians and parents say and do, and young people want to behave collide.

I’d suggest that what might help is some alcohol education (possibly like this) that helps young people to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to stay healthy and avoid the problems that alcohol can do wouldn’t go amiss either.

Filed under: alcohol, Conservatives

David Cameron: Fixing our Broken Society

David Cameron launching his party’s by-election campaign in Glasgow yesterday made a speech in which he says:

“We talk about people being “at risk of obesity” instead of talking about people who eat too much and take too little exercise. We talk about people being at risk of poverty, or social exclusion: it’s as if these things – obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction – are purely external events like a plague or bad weather.

“Of course, circumstances – where you are born, your neighbourhood, your school, and the choices your parents make – have a huge impact. But social problems are often the consequence of the choices that people make.

“There is a danger of becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth anymore about what is good and bad, right and wrong. That is why children are growing up without boundaries, thinking they can do as they please, and why no adult will intervene to stop them – including, often, their parents. If we are going to get any where near solving some of these problems, that has to stop.”

Mr Cameron argues that any government he leads will encourage personal and social responsibility for tackling these issues rather than what he calls taking a “morally neutral” tone.

What that’ll mean in terms of our field has probably been most thoroughly explored in the addictions paper of the Conservatives’ Social Justice Policy Group. They said:

Much government generated advice has been condemned as patronising, pointless and even as encouraging drug use in attempts to be ‘non judgemental’ and to key into perceptions of youth culture and values. [page 67]

In place of what they percieve to be current practice the commission called for:

Systematic carefully designed research to test the impact of different approaches [to what they call addictation education] – scientific, informational, experiential and personal, and peer led interactive – to be tested and compared across different school settings is required. Impact measures need to look at comprehension and retention in addition to longer term behaviour change. This requires a ‘capture and recapture’ method or other form of longitudinal, cohort study. [page 113]

Filed under: Conservatives

No more kids TV advertising bans, demand Tories

You’ll remember Alcohol Concern raising their worries about how much advertising there is of alcohol during the periods when children are watching.

Here’s shadow media secretary, Ed Vaizey MP, talking about their approach to regulation:

“Advertising restrictions during children’s programmes have made it harder for commercial broadcasters to raise the revenue they need to invest in children’s TV,” he told the conference. “We will oppose moves to place more restrictions on TV advertising.”

Filed under: advertising, alcohol, Conservatives,

David Cameron: Speech on social innovation

The Conservative Leader has made a speech about social innovation that we should find interesting. Talking about how we change behaviour – and government’s role in that – he says:

The first principle is, in fact, an old insight and an instinctive one for Conservatives, but it has more relevance than ever in today’s new world. It’s called going with the grain of human nature. Policy-making must always take into account how people actually behave – not how an artificial system would like them to behave.

The American academic Robert Cialdini has made a huge contribution to what we know about this. In jargon: he calls it social norms. In plain English: it means recognising that one of the most important influences on people’s behaviour is what other people do. With the right prompting – or what Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in their latest book have called a “Nudge” – we’ll change our behaviour to fit in with what we see around us.

This approach is familiar to those of us in drug education, it’s the normative approach which the present government have also been interested in.

Filed under: Conservatives,

MP helps pupils on life’s learning curve

Harborough Today report on one of their local MPs, Edward Garnier, visiting a Life Education Centre lesson about which he says:

“Many people may be surprised that there is a need for children of primary school age to be taught about alcohol and drug abuse but we are burying our heads in the sand if we think that it is only teenagers and young adults who take drugs and drink too much.

“The average age of first contact with illegal drugs and alcohol is 11 years. Children hear about drugs from older siblings and friends and from the media – this is a reality we have to contend with and unless we tackle this at the earliest possible age we will lose the battle.”

Filed under: Conservatives, drug education, Drug Education Forum Members,

Children being failed by progressive teaching, say Tories

According to the Guardian the Conservatives’ education spokesman Michael Gove thinks skills based teaching is failing pupils.

Generations of children have been let down by so-called progressive education policies which have taught skills and “empathy” instead of bodies of knowledge, the shadow education secretary, Michael Gove, said yesterday.

A Conservative government would reinstate traditional styles of fact-based lessons, he told teachers at a conference at Brighton College in Sussex yesterday.

Gove condemned “pupil-centred learning” theories that gained currency in the 1960s for “dethroning” the teacher. “This misplaced ideology has let down generations of children,” he said. “It is an approach to education that has been called progressive, but in fact is anything but. It privileges temporary relevance over a permanent body of knowledge which should be passed on from generation to generation … We need to tackle this misplaced ideology wherever it occurs.”

The NUT’s acting General Secretary isn’t impressed:

“All children need both skills and knowledge – there is no contradiction,” adding: “Teachers will be appalled at Michael Gove’s failure to understand how children learn.”

Mr Gove needs to understand the benefits of personalised tuition for the children in the greatest need, said Ms Blower.

Mr Gove’s website doesn’t yet carry the speech so I’m unable to see how relevant it is to our subject area, but as I’m sure you’ll be aware our definition of drug education does include a belief that it ought to try to affect children and young people’s knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Filed under: Conservatives, educational theory,

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021