Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Set schools free, says Nick Clegg


Schools should be less constrained by the National Curriculum, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, says on Monday.

In a speech to the Centre Forum think-tank at the Microsoft headquarters in London, he will call for an end to the “one size fits all” approach to education.

He will call for the establishment of an education standards authority to tackle accusations of dumbing down by ensuring exams retain their gold standard.

I raise this as there’s clearly an ongoing competition amongst the mainstream politicians to talk up “freeing” schools from the burden of local and central government diktat.

But what happens if and when that occurs, and how do subjects like drug education the wider health education agenda do in that brave new world?

Does a more light touch centre free up more space for the personal social development of pupils, or do you get even less time as the core curriculum benefits from not being constrained by other considerations?


Filed under: education, Liberal Democrats

Pressure and Professionalism

The NUT have put a report they’ve commissioned on the the impact of recent and present government policies on the working lives of teachers on the web.

I’ve not had a chance to read it all but here are a few things I took from it:

School leaders described themselves as caught in a cross fire of prescriptive national policies on the one hand and local expectations and demands on the other. While attempting to be circumspect in reference to children and families and careful to avoid blaming the parents, school staff were clearly struggling with a new order of social and peer group challenges. Reasonable behaviour in school and parental support out of school could not be assumed and the response to punishment and exclusion often resulted in confrontation and, on occasion, both verbal and physical assault. In an attempt not to lay blame at parents’ door the discourse was framed in terms of the mediating influence of newspapers, television, the internet, the drug, alcohol and permissive culture in which many parents have simply lost control of children as they entered the turbulent adolescent years.


Current initiatives such as Assessment for Learning (Black et al. 2003) and Learning to Learn (James et al. 2006) all share the same perspective that in order for pupils to become autonomous learners they must continually question the strategies that they use and the decisions they make in attempting to solve intellectual problems. While extreme misbehaviour in the classroom obviously demands a swift, uncompromising response, so that classroom rules are unequivocal, pupils are not often expected to apply the same metacognitive skills that they use for academic problem solving to issues of personal relationships except in PSHE and citizenship sessions.

Filed under: education, ,

Head teachers want to drop National Curriculum in schools

The Telegraph report on the evidence submitted by the National Association of Head Teachers (a Forum member), to a select committee inquiry into whether the National Curriculum is “fit for purpose”:

A range of school subjects could be swept away under new teaching proposals.
The attack on the National Curriculum, which has dictated school timetables for 20 years, could spell the end of separate classes in history, geography, literature, languages, art and music.

Instead, schools would be allowed to decide how they teach big themes such as global warming, conflict and healthy living.

Given the QCA have recently produced a new secondary curriculum and Sir Jim Rose has just started reviewing the primary curriculum I think the Telegraph might be overselling possibility of the end of the National Curriculum.

Nevertheless, there clearly is a desire on the part of teachers and the government (to an extent) to open up the curriculum and allow schools to use it more flexibly.

For those of us wanting better drug education that – it seems to me – offers an opportunity as much as it does a threat.

The opportunity is to find ways to make drug education more interesting and integrated than has perhaps been the case in the past; to make sure that it is much more than a knowledge based subject and to bring some of the energy of the best of PSHE to other subject areas.  However, this shouldn’t be at the expense of what little evidence we have around effectiveness.

And there’s the rub because, the threat is that drug education becomes an increasingly peripheral subject; expected to be picked up across the curriculum but squeezed out by the core issues of particular subjects.

I don’t know whether it’s fair, but the evidence from Manchester University (PowerPoint presentation), around what’s happened to the primary curriculum since 1997,  suggests that the emphasis on core subjects (literacy and numeracy) has been at the expense of subjects like PSHE.

Any thoughts on this would be welcome.  Particularly as we’re working with the government on their drug education review (as promised in the Children’s Plan); so levers to improve the context and delivery of drug education are high on our agenda at the moment.

Filed under: drug education, education,

ACE Text Service

Not entirely on topic but perhaps useful.

ACE – the Advisory Centre for Education – have been kind enough to drop me a line about their new text service for parents:

Advisory Centre for Education launch free text advice service

Ask ACE, a free, independent education advice service delivered via text is now available to all O2, Orange, Vodafone, 3 and T-Mobile users. This is during the time when thousands of families across England are considering the school their child has been offered a place at.  The service will be available across all networks by the end of March. Please visit www.ace-ed.org.uk for further details.

Families should text the word ADMISSIONS to the Ask ACE number, 68808, to access free advice on what to do if they wish to appeal against the school their child has been offered or need help with any part of the admissions process.

Simon Hepburn, Chief Executive of the Advisory Centre for Education, said:

“This is a stressful and anxious time for many families who have not been offered a school that they feel is appropriate for their child.  This may be for a range of reasons, for example because the school does not meet their child’s learning needs, because they may be at risk of being bullied, or because it is geographically unsuitable.  Last year the Advisory Centre for Education received almost 1,500 calls about admissions and appeals and over 56,000 appeals were heard during 2005 – 2006.  Ask ACE will provide fast, easily accessible information to support families considering the appeals process.”

Filed under: education, parents,

A third of teachers ‘struggle with technology’

A bit beyond our beaten track , but perhaps of interest to those of you thinking about producind resources for schools. The Guardian report on research about how teachers are coping with new technologies:

A third of teachers struggle to use the technology schools are equipped with and want more support and training, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said today.

You can see the full research here.  Perhaps unsurprisingly the NFER put the accent on the positive:

Eighty per cent of teachers responding to our omnibus survey confirmed that using ICT in lessons made a difference to the way they teach. Two thirds of teachers felt that they have the skills to exploit the technology available to them.

Filed under: education

Education and Skills Bill

Via They Work for You I see there were a few references to drugs in the debate on the new Education and Skills Bill which has started its passage through Parliament.

Joan Humble said:

May I return my right hon. Friend to the point he a moment ago about the importance of information, advice and guidance? Blackpool council is responding to the Government’s initiatives by putting together teams of workers who can offer appropriate advice and guidance to young people as they need it, with Connexions workers—including, I should put on record, my elder daughter, who works for Blackpool Connexions—youth workers, youth offending team workers, and specialist workers on teenage pregnancy and on drug and alcohol services. That will ensure that a young person knows whom to go to and can get the right advice from appropriately trained people.

To which the Secretary of State replied:

My hon. Friend is right. Under the Bill, local authorities, when they take over the running of Connexions, will need to give advice and guidance that is not only impartial but tailored, particularly for children with special needs or learning difficulties. There will be special help for young people in custody and for teenage mothers, and we will need to ensure that we tailor support for children with those particular needs. However, that does not mean that they should be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. When we say “educational opportunity for all”, that should mean “all”.

Angela Watkinson spoke about PSHE and drug education and said:

We [the Conservatives] believe that what happens in school pre-16 is absolutely crucial in reducing truancy, disaffection, under-achievement and lack of aspiration and ambition. In addition to the quality of teaching in schools, pastoral care, especially through personal, health and social education, has an important role to play in preparing students for adult life. Students should have proper information and warnings about, for example, the pitfalls of substance and drug abuse and the dangers not just for their education but for their health, motivation and progress to adult life.

Time and again, when young people are interviewed, I notice that their speech is almost unintelligible. Some of that is teenage affectation and style, but often they simply do not enunciate properly, especially in our part of the world where they speak “estuary English”. They try to speak without using their tongue or any of the muscles in their mouth or jaw—without any movement at all; it is almost as though they are ventriloquists. I hope that PHSE can help young people to understand that if they want to find a job, or even be enrolled on an apprenticeship scheme, they need to be able to communicate with non-teenagers who do not speak their language. Being understood is an important part of communicating with adults.

Filed under: education, Parliament, PSHE,

Dfes guidance on class discussions is welcome

The Guardian takes a look at new guidance about classroom based discussions:

What is the point of an exercise in which only a few children ever take part? Organising discussion is an area where the teaching profession has revealed itself to be as creative as it claims. We have come up with the goods time after time. The existence of paired discussion, trios, talking in groups, jigsaws, pairs to fours, expert groups, argument tunnels, verbal tennis or any of the other fantastic techniques available takes the teacher away from the front of the class and gives all students a forum in which they may express themselves and develop their oracy skills. These techniques actually promote independent learning and, in taking the teacher away from the front, take him or her away from both the potential for being abused, and from the position of being the only source of knowledge in the room. There is really no reason, other than lack of preparation time, laziness or fear of noise for any teacher to bother with leading a “hands-up half-hour”.

This is aplicable to PSHE and drug education as any other subject.

As we found when doing the work on Positive Guidance on Aspects of Personal, Social and Health Education there a number of ways that teachers can actively engage their pupils in learning, which we hope contributes to effective drug education.

Dfes guidance on class discussions is welcome

Filed under: education

Getting It. Getting It Right

My thanks to Adrian King for doing the detective work on finding Getting It. Getting It Right, that I tried and failed to find last week.

You’ll recall the report looks at the links between the use of exclusions and ethnicity. It concludes:

Every year 1000 Black pupils are permanently excluded and nearly 30,000 receive a Fixed Period Exclusion.

On average, these pupils will:

  • be one third less likely to achieve 5 A*- C at GCSE;
  • be 3% more likely to be unemployed;
  • experience a reduction of £36,000 in lifetime earnings;
  • be more likely to commit crimes, commit serious crime and to re-offend;
  • be more likely to smoke, drink and take drugs.

Filed under: education, ethnicity, exclusions

Attachment to education and drugs

There are a couple of general education reports in the news which I thought may have a bearing on young people and drugs.

First up is Alan Johnson making the case for raising the school leaving age to 18 as reported by The Guardian:

“The evidence demonstrates that the younger a person leaves school, the more likely he or she will be to use drugs; become engaged in prostitution; commit crime to wind up in prison, unemployed or homeless, and usually all three.”

Mr Johnson will tell the Sector Skills Development agency that better education is not about acquiring skills just to help the economy but also to make social progress. The minister is using reports of increased prostitution and drug dealing to argue the case for the £2bn cost of raising the school-leaving age from 16 to 18. The policy is one of Gordon Brown’s spending pledges.

Next up is a report from the BBC about how black pupils are treated by schools. According to the BBC the DfES have a report called Getting it. Getting it Right which found:

  • significantly more likely to be permanently excluded routinely punished more harshly, praised less and told off more often
  • 1.5 times as likely as white British pupils to be identified with behaviour-related special needs
  • outperformed white pupils in school entry tests – when these were changed to teacher observations the pattern was reversed
  • disproportionately put in bottom sets – due to behaviour rather than ability much less likely than the average to be identified as gifted and talented

I couldn’t find the report online at the DfES website. Update – Adrian has found the document and sent me the link to the report.

Meanwhile Conservative Leader, David Cameron, has been explaining why he thinks head teachers should be able permanently exclude pupils with less interference:

“Educational failure helps breed the terrible stories we’re becoming so familiar with – the teenage gangs, mixed up with drugs and guns, the murders and muggings,” said Mr Cameron.

Enforcing discipline in school was central to raising standards, he said, and he called for head teachers to have “the ultimate sanction: the power to expel” – and to reduce the likelihood that this would be overturned on appeal.

Filed under: education

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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May 2018
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