Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Tellus 2008

tell-usI’ve spent a bit of time looking at what the last TellUs survey had to say and as you’ll see if you download the briefing paper I’ve produced one of the things that struck me was how different some of the findings were to the ones that the Information Centre provided in their last report.

I’ve raised this with Ofsted and the DCSF, but as yet haven’t had a definitive response.

The other thing that comes across is how similar the findings were for the group of authorities that chose to sign up to National Indicator 115 against the national data set.

So, while there were some big variations between members of the group, as a whole their results almost perfectly mirror the national picture.  It’ll be interesting to see  whether by having taken this as an area of particular importance the group will be able to make a significant difference in the prevalence of drug use amongst young people in their areas.


Filed under: Ofsted

Time for Action – Young Londoners and Tellus3

Time for ActionJust had a chance to look at the Mayor of London’s new vision for equipping young people for the future and preventing violence.

The Mayor has 5 priorities:

1. Giving young offenders in prison for the first time the life tools that will enable careers other than professional criminality. It makes sense on all levels, even financially.

2. Teachers can only educate kids if they are actually in school. Truancy needs more co-ordinated and assertive effort.

3. Only a tiny minority of children in care go to university. They are much more likely to end up in prison. We want to change these numbers.

4. Their behaviour shows that too many young people lack self-respect and character. Organisations like the Scouts, Girl Guides and Police Cadets know a lot about character, and we need their help.

5. Sport can unify and redeem. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds, and we want more sporty, active kids in our city. 
In addition to these themes, the Mayor wants to establish specialist Mayoral Academies across London to help equip the city and young people with the skills needed for the future.

A number of these should impact on the risk and protective factors around substance misuse.  But the text of the strategy doesn’t really have much to say about the problems young people in London might face around drugs and alcohol.

There is a brief mention about the links between gangs and drug dealing, and also that access to drugs and alcohol can be increase the risks of offending, but beyond that I didn’t see anything which would indicate that the Mayor sees drugs and alcohol misuse by young people as a priority for his administration.

And perhaps he’s got a point.

Tellus3 in London

Looking at the results for the Ofsted Tellus3 survey I’ve pulled out the London boroughs (where there is information – Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, Southwark and the Corporation of London didn’t participate) and there are some interesting findings.



  • Fewer young people from London say they have taken drugs than the national average, 9% to 11% respectively.
  • There was no difference in number that said they had not taken drugs (86%).
  • Looking at individual boroughs young people in Kensington and Chelsea are the least likely to say they have taken drugs (3%), and those from Richmond-Upon-Thames the most likely to answer yes (17%). (Bexley didn’t provide information on this question).


Ofsted Tellus3
  • Many more young Londoners say they’ve never had an alcoholic drink than the national average.
  • In Tower Hamlets over 60% of pupils say they have never had a drink.  In Havering this falls to 23%.
  • 7% of pupils from Bromley and Kingston say that they have been drunk three or more times in the last four weeks (compared to a national average of 6%).


Time for Action is a consultation document.  To submit your comments complete the web-based feedback form below by 16 December 2008.

Filed under: alcohol, illegal drugs, Ofsted,

Good practice in re-engaging disaffected and reluctant students in secondary schools

We know that a successful school experience is one of the most important protective factors for young people in helping them to avoid potential problems with drugs.

So I’m interested in Ofsted’s new report which looks at “sustained good practice in re-engaging disaffected students in their learning”.

They found that:

The factors which were most successful in helping these students to enjoy learning included:

  • a commitment from all staff to meeting the students’ needs
  • effective monitoring systems to identify students at risk
  • close collaboration between primary and secondary schools to prevent students’ disengagement at transition
  • the involvement of a wide variety of adults within the school and the community to support the students
  • regular and effective communication with parents and carers, including involving them closely in determining the strategies to be used to support their children
  • modifying the curriculum and drawing on educational providers beyond the school
  • close working relationships with local agencies responsible for supporting children and young people.

The key findings identified are:

  • The staff shared a commitment to helping the students succeed, which they expressed clearly to students and their families. The school ethos valued and respected the needs of individuals. The students felt part of the school.
  • Robust monitoring of academic, personal and social progress, and close collaboration with primary schools and other services for children and young people ensured that students who were likely to become disaffected were identified early. They received appropriate support before and after they entered secondary school.
  • Teaching assistants provided vital support for individuals, helping them to maintain their interest and cope successfully with any crises. This allowed teachers to focus on teaching the whole class.
  • Pastoral support was managed by assigned support staff. They acted as the first point of contact for all parents and carers and they directed them to the most appropriate member of staff if they could not deal with the issue themselves.
  • Communication with students and their families was very effective. It ensured that they were fully involved in the process and had confidence in the decisions that were made. Students knew they were listened to and felt they could contribute to decisions about their future. Home–school liaison staff played a critical role.
  • Specific support, such as temporary withdrawal from classes and training in life skills to help students change their attitudes and improve their learning, was very effective.
  • At Key Stage 4, a high-quality, flexible curriculum, involving a range of accredited training providers outside the school, was effective in engaging students more in their learning.

The Daily Telegraph covers the report here.

Filed under: Ofsted,

Indicators of a school’s contribution to well-being

The BBC:

Schools in England are to be held to account on a wide range of measures of pupil well-being.

Ofsted is to use parents’ and pupils’ views on issues such as how a school discourages drug and alcohol use and offers relationship guidance.

Contrary to early reports, teenage pregnancy, obesity and drug use rates will not be used to judge schools.

The story goes on to give teaching union opinion of the proposals which are mixed.

But nothing is yet set in stone.  Ofsted are consulting on these proposals and say:

As signalled in the Children’s Plan and in the well-being guidance, the DCSF and Ofsted have been working to develop strong school-level indicators of pupils’ well-being. These indicators will improve the information available to schools to help them assess the well-being issues their pupils face and to evaluate the school’s contribution to promoting pupil well-being. Ofsted will be looking for evidence from all schools on well-being and therefore the indicators will apply to all maintained schools, primary, secondary, special and Pupil Referral Units and to academies.

The consultation paper says:

Although schools can influence a range of outcomes beyond those relating to achievement, that does not imply that they should be held fully accountable for those outcomes. There is no intention to hold schools to account for well-being outcomes over which they have limited influence such as levels of child obesity or teenage pregnancy rates. Parents have the biggest influence on their children’s wellbeing. Alongside parents, other services, and the LA itself, also play key roles. What a school can reasonably be held to account for is its contribution to improving ou tcomes, an d its impact, recognising that this co ntribution may often be made as part of a partnership, and in a context where achieving improvement may be particularly challenging.

The paper proposes two types of indicator:

  1. indicators relating to quantified outcomes over which schools can have significant influence
  2. indicators based on the perceptions of pupils and parents, relating to the ECM outcomes themselves and the school’s contribution to them.

Ofsted are also proposing to have a local area profile built from the information that is being delivered by the National Indicators – see here for more on the drug element of those.

The first set of indicators they are proposing are related to quantified outcomes:

  1. the school’s overall attendance rate for the most recent school year for which data are available
  2. the percentage of persistent absentees – pupils who have missed more than 20% of sessions
  3. percentage of pupils doing at least two hours a week of high quality PE and sport 
  4. the take-up of school lunches 
  5. rate of permanent exclusion 
  6. (for secondary schools) post-16 progression measures. (Participation in learning in the year after they left compulsory schooling).

The second set relate to parent or pupil’s perceptions which they expect to capture from surveys and which they say should cover the extent to which:

  • the school
    • promotes healthy eating
    • promotes exercise and a healthy lifestyle and (for younger children) play
    • discourages smoking, consumption of alcohol and use of illegal drugs and other harmful substances
    • gives good guidance on relationships and sexual health
    • helps pupils to manage their feelings and be resilient
    • promotes equality and counteracts discrimination
    • provides a good range of additional activities
    • gives pupils good opportunities to contribute to the local community
    • helps people of different backgrounds to get on well, both in the school and in the wider community
    • helps pupils gain the knowledge and skills they will need in the future
    • offers the opportunity at 14 to access a range of curriculum choices;
    • supports pupils to make choices that will help them progress towards a chosen career/subject of further study
  • pupils
    • feel safe
    • experience bullying
    • know who to approach if they have a concern
    • enjoy school
    • are making good progress
    • feel listened to
    • are able to influence decisions in the school.

The consultation will close on 16th January.

Filed under: consultation, Ofsted, Well-being,

Councils struggle to tackle pregnancy, obesity and drug abuse amongst children

The Telegraph:

The Ofsted report concludes: “Some councils are finding a number of intractable problems and are having little success in resolving them.

“For example, teenage pregnancy rates are only slowly declining and there is significant variation from one council to another.

“Strategies to address substance misuse, obesity and smoking are not widely effective. There is a growing concern over the oral health of children.”

The Ofsted report is based on the annual performance assessments of 137 councils across England, in the Government’s “Every Child Matters” categories of being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic well-being.

The Ofsted report can be found here, it says:

Despite increased resources to assess local substance misuse needs, including alcohol and smoking, and to ensure that more specialist treatment programmes are available, there is still insufficient focus on preventative strategies. Councils are utilising the range of resources available to them more, but some agencies do not fully understand their role in working alongside other professionals in preventing problems from occurring in the first place. The full impact of education programmes has yet to be realised. Ten councils were identified as having insufficient capacity to adequately support drug treatment programmes and young people with mental health needs were particularly poorly supported. [page8]

Substance misuse features as an area for improvement in a small minority of council areas. A greater capacity is required to assess local needs and intervene appropriately, whether through more preventative work or treatment programmes. The need to improve the capacity of drug treatment programmes was referred to in 10 APA [Annual Performance Assessment] letters. [page 11]

Filed under: Ofsted

Schools may be judged on teenage pregnancy rates and drug problems

The Guardian has a story about proposals that suggest that schools may get new targets around a range of health and risk taking behaviours amongst their pupils, including substance misuse.

The proposals were in the context of discussions that are taking place around guidance being developed on pupil wellbeing:

The ideas, set out in a discussion document from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, suggest schools would become accountable for 18 new targets, from bullying and neglect, to what happens to pupils after they leave school. Sources said the 10-page document, entitled Indicators of schools’ performance in contributing to pupil wellbeing, calls for Ofsted inspectors to judge schools on the wide range of measures in addition to existing criteria such as exam results and exclusion rates. The measures could be implemented by Ofsted from 2009, and suggest that schools would become broadly responsible for children’s safety, enjoyment and happiness.

The teaching unions that are quoted (all of whom are members of the Drug Education Forum) are sceptical about being held accountable for behaviour they feel they have little control over.

John Dunford, General Secretary of the ASCL, for example, is quoted saying:

“The new Ofsted inspection framework will include wellbeing, but this has to be delivered in partnership with other authorities,” he said. Health professionals not teachers should deal with pupils’ health. Similarly, police records were not always passed on to schools because of data protection laws. “It’s absolutely essential this agenda is not dumped on schools,” he added.

These are very similar points to ones he made in 2006 when talking about the Every Child Matters agenda.

I think there’d be a broad consensus about the need for this to be a shared agenda for all of those delivering services to children and one that parents have the primary role in delivering. And, despite the way the Guardian report phrases things, I don’t necessarily think that schools are being expected to be the only delivers, but they can be key, as PSA 14 seems to make clear:

Success will be strongly dependent on close collaboration between a wide range of local agencies, including health services and the Criminal Justice System, as well as services more explicitly focused on children and young people. Schools, colleges, and other learning providers are the key universal service and need to sit at the centre of an effective preventative system, with other services for young people providing effective and timely support. Children’s Trusts also have an important strategic role to play in this preventative system, as the leader with responsibility for commissioning and delivery of improvements in services for children and young people at the local level.

PSA 14 includes the government’s target around young people’s substance misuse, which is to:

Reduce the proportion of young people frequently using illicit drugs, alcohol or volatile substances.

Their indicator for this is the annual Tellus survey which is carried out in schools. For more on the PSA read our background briefing.

It seems to make sense to me that data to help understand young people’s drug misuse is collected at a school level and certainly it would be much more complicated to do it anywhere else. However, one of the things that I’m told is a barrier for schools taking part in the survey has been that the data isn’t specific enough to be useful to schools. I believe it would make sense if Ofsted could find ways of making the data available at the school level without harming the confidence that pupils have in being able to take part anonymously. I wonder whether they could learn lessons from organisations like the SHEU or Communities that Care about doing that.

Data at that level shouldn’t, however, be seen as placing responsibility for changing behaviour solely on schools shoulders, but it could help schools be clear about the needs of their pupils and to engage with them and the wider school community (parents, governors and extended school services) about how they want to address the issues that are thrown up.

The DCSF refused to comment on leaked documents or the nature of the discussions that have taken place.

Update – The Daily Mail follow up and get a bit more from the DCSF:

“This is not about extra burdens on teachers or a rash of new targets for schools to meet – nearly all of these issues are already measured and assessed by public authorities. It is about making sure children are healthy and safe – both in school and outside.

“Schools have a crucial role to play in children’s lives. But it is not down to them to solve issues in wider society alone – and we have never said it was. It is about schools being able to tap into expert outside help – that’s why we are developing this with teaching unions and a wide range of other organisations to get it right.”

Filed under: drug prevention, Ofsted, Well-being, , ,


Ofsted have published the questions they’re going to ask pupils. Their website says:

Tellus3 is a confidential online survey to gather the views of children and young people. Although devised by Ofsted in partnership with the Government’s Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), it will be run by local authorities through participating schools across England from 17 March to 12 June 2008.

It provides evidence for the National Indicator set used in Annual Performance Assessments and Joint Area Reviews, and can help local authorities judge the impact of their services on perceived quality of life for children and young people.

The questions we’re likely to be interested in are below (sorry about the formatting).

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Ofsted, Uncategorized, ,

Drug Strategy – Implementation Plan

As well as the new strategy the Home Office have also published the implementation plan for achieving their actions.

My eye couldn’t help being dragged to the following:

Complete the review of substance misuse education, committed to in the Children’s Plan, to strengthen the role of schools with an emphasis on primary education, early identification, and provision of in-school support. Continue to support the work of the Drug Education Forum and disseminate findings from Blueprint drug education research programme.

It’s good to know we’re valued.

I think it’s also the outcomes from these actions that lies behind the briefing on Ofsted’s role:

Improved Drug Education rating with Ofsted, achievement of National Healthy Schools targets.

Filed under: drug strategy, Ofsted,

A glass half full?

Yvonne Roberts writing for Comment is Free about the Tellus2 survey:

According to the survey, by the time this group reach their teens they are stressed out by exams and friendships and one in seven has taken drugs. Stress isn’t always a bad thing and, if you believe that six out of seven haven’t taken drugs, that’s surely a minor miracle?

Many of the children do voluntary work and sports – 40% exercise more than six times a week. According to the survey, however, somewhere after their 13th birthday, rates of substance abuse and alcohol consumption increase. Nearly 40% say they have been drunk more than once in the past month and 40% have smoked.

The key questions are unanswered – how many cigarettes and how regularly? And likewise, how many more times than once have they been drunk? A small minority have used harder drugs. Overall, 3% had tried sniffing glue and 3% said they had used a class A drug such as cocaine or ecstasy. In addition, 5% of 10- to 11-year-olds had been drunk at least once in the four weeks before they were questioned.

While some might read into these results signs of a 21st century junior Armageddon – are they really all that alarming? Fifty years ago, if there had been the same addiction to surveys, polls and studies as now, it’s not inconceivable that similar results might have been produced. Although, then, lack of cash and concepts of shame and respectability meant that boozing didn’t escalate into the national weekend-long binge that seems to occupy the late teens and older age groups today.

Filed under: Ofsted,


Here’s Ofsted’s take on their survey results (focusing on what they say about drugs issues):

TellUs2 found an overwhelmingly positive picture for most children living in England today, but with some long-standing problems and important areas needing improvement. The level of smoking, drinking and drugs misuse is significant amongst some young people, the survey, developed jointly with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and Ipsos MORI, reveals.

The survey found that the vast majority (86%) of children consider themselves to be quite or very healthy. Some 73% of respondents say that they take part in sports or other activities such as cycling and running about for at least 30 minutes on more than three days a week. Seventy-three per cent also say they have never smoked a cigarette and 80% of the older children asked say that they have never taken drugs. 

Children and young people also have clear views about what would help them to do better in school. A significant minority of Year 8 and 10 respondents think they need better and/or more information and advice on healthy eating (20%), alcohol (27%), smoking (26%), drugs (31%) and sex and relationships (37%).

But while the overall picture was positive, some concerns also emerged.

Almost half (48%) of all children between 10 and 15 claimed they have had an alcoholic drink. One in five (19%) said they have been drunk at least once in the past four weeks.

The proportion of children saying that they have tried an alcoholic drink increases with age. While 21% of children aged 10-11 said they have had an alcoholic drink the figure for 12-13 year olds is 50% and for 14-15s it reaches 74%.

Claiming to have been drunk also accelerates. Five per cent of 10-11 year olds say they have been drunk more than once in the past four weeks, 17% of 12-13 year olds and 37% of 14-15 year olds.

Sixteen per cent of the oldest group claim to have been drunk three or more times in that period.

One in five of all children surveyed (21%) said they had smoked a cigarette.

Again, the incidence of smoking appears to rise by age. Five per cent of 10-11 year olds said they had smoked. That figure rose to 19% for 12-13 year olds and 41% for 14-15 year olds.

Some 15% of children aged 12 to 15 said they had tried drugs. Of these, 9% of all children said they had smoked cannabis (4% for 12-13 year olds and 13% for 14-15 year olds).

Overall, 3% said they had sniffed solvents such as glue or gas aerosols (3% for 12-13 year olds and 4% for 14-15 year olds).

Three per cent of all children surveyed said they had used other drugs such as cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, heroin, speed or magic mushrooms (2% for 12-13 year olds and 4% for 14-15 year olds).

The technical paper about the Tellus2 survey says:

TellUs2 is a survey of children and young people in England in 2007 which asks about their experiences and views of their life, their school and their local area. It is a reworked and improved version of the original Ofsted TellUs survey. The online questionnaire has been developed jointly by Ofsted, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and Ipsos MORI as a qualitative user perception survey to gather comparable data on children and young people’s views across the country. It provides statistically reliable data which is representative of the area. It will also allow comparison against national benchmarks.

In talking about the methodology they say:

The sample was designed to try to get a sufficient number of responses at local authority level in order for the survey results to give a robust indication of how children in that area feel.

There were two stages to sampling for the TellUs2 survey: the first was to select schools to survey and the second stage was to select classes within schools. The random selection of individual pupils to take part would be more likely to give better estimates (that is with lower confidence intervals around them), however pupil level survey participation would be very difficult to put into practice.  Therefore the school and class sampling approach was developed, with design effects (see section on significance testing) used to take account of the effect of the sample design on the confidence associated with the estimates produced.

There was a limit of  40 primary schools, 15 secondary schools and two pupil referral units (PRUs) in each local authority area.  Where fewer schools were recruited (the survey is voluntary) all those that were willing to take part were included.  For the second part, selecting classes:

The school was asked to randomly select the classes to take part, and it was specified that they should be non-streamed, and of average size.

We know that pupils do worry about information they give about subjects like their drug and alcohol use remains confidential and this is addressed in the report:

Children and young people taking part in the survey were assured of the confidentiality of their responses. Schools were also told that their school’s data would not be identifiable from summary data that is released.

Therefore, local authority data has only been released where there are more than 100 respondents and more than one school taking part for the year group.

They have this to say about response rates this year:

In total, 111,325 children and young people in England took part in this survey during 2007, drawn from 141 of the 150 local authorities in the country.

Of the 141 local authorities, there is some level of report coverage for 139. The two local authorities that have not been reported on did not provide enough responses to protect the anonymity of schools and pupils. Representative weighted data is available for 112 areas; this is where data has been provided for all year groups and therefore an equal comparison can be made to national data. Across these areas there was an average school level response rate of 39%, with an average of over 900 responses from each. The school response rate ranged from 5% to 100%.

The questions:

  •  Have you ever had an alcoholic drink? That is a whole drink, not just a sip. (Please don’t count drinks labelled as low alcohol).
  •  In the last four weeks, how many times, if any, have you got drunk (ie by drinking a lot of alcohol)?
  •  Have you ever smoked a cigarette?
  •  Read the sentences below carefully and tick the box next to the one that best describes you. PLEASE TICK ONE BOX ONLY
    • I have smoked cigarettes only once or twice
    • I used to smoke cigarettes but I do not now
    • I sometimes smoke cigarettes, but I do not smoke every week 
    • I smoke cigarettes regularly, once a week or more
    • Prefer not to say
  • Which of these drugs, if any, have you taken in the last four weeks? (asked of secondary pupils only)
    • I have never taken any drugs
    • I have not taken any drugs in the last four weeks
    • Cannabis (weed, grass, hash)
    • Solvents (e.g. sniffing or breathing in glue, gas aerosols)
    • Other drugs (e.g. Cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy, Heroin, speed, magic mushrooms)
    • Prefer not to say
  •  What do you think of the information and advice you get on the following things? (asked of secondary pupils only)
    • Options are (1) It’s good enough  (2) Need more or better information and advice

      • Alcohol

      • Smoking

      • Drugs

Filed under: Ofsted,

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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