Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Children, Schools and Families Committee Report on the National Curriculum

csf-committeeThere’s a fair bit of media interest in the report into the national curriculum produced by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, largely because they make a case for slimming down the curriculum and are critical of what they see as an overly controlling centre in the form of the DCSF.

The report says:

We take the view that the main purpose of a national curriculum is to set out clearly and simply a minimum entitlement for every child. In its current form the National Curriculum essentially accounts for all the available teaching time. We would like to see this changed and a cap placed on the proportion of the curriculum that is prescribed centrally.

They argue that if Academies are only required to follow the National Curriculum for the subjects of English, mathematics, science and ICT that should be the case for all schools.

While there’s barely a mention of drug education or PSHE more broadly in the report, when we turn to the evidence the committee heard it’s clear that PSHE as a subject and the decision to make PSHE statutory was on the MPs minds.

Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: education, Parliament

Jackson slams ‘ineffective’ cannabis action

ITN are reporting on evidence that the American politician and civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, has been giving to the home affairs select committee in Parliament.

Rev Jackson is reported as suggesting that cannabis enforcement has a history of being one eyed, focusing on those from poorer socio-economic groups and ignoring what happens in universities.  Asked whether the police should be focusing on campuses he said:

“You can either begin to raid campuses – you go up on a couple of high-profile universities in Britain and you do a drug raid you will get a huge reaction from people of power whose children are going to be damaged by that process.

“Or you can let the same laws apply to those on the ghetto corners, have the same relaxed notion. At least give the others the same playing field.”

Filed under: Parliament

Parliamentary Questions

Charles Walker, the Conservative MP for Broxbourne, has put down a couple of questions to the DCSF.  On drug testing in schools he asks:

what support is available from his Department to schools which wish to introduce voluntary drug testing; and if he will make a statement.

In reply Sarah McCarthy-Fry says:

The Department’s guidance, Drugs: Guidance for Schools (DFES 2004) makes it clear that head teachers can introduce voluntary drug testing if they consider that such an approach is appropriate. It is essential that before a school takes the decision to introduce drug testing that it considers very carefully all of the factors outlined in the guidance, including whether such action will result in appropriate support for pupils most in need. In deciding whether to use this approach, schools are encouraged to consult with local partners, such as the police, who may be able to offer advice and support.

What she doesn’t say is that when they asked Sir Alan Steer to look at the idea of drug testing in schools last year he came back and said:

Random drug testing isn’t likely to be effective and the government shouldn’t run a pilot.

Mr Walker also asks if the government:

will commission research on the effect of cannabis use on academic outcomes; and if he will make a statement.

To which Beverley Hughes says:

We are committed to tackling all of the harms associated with cannabis use, including poor school performance or disengagement from education. Although there is no specific research currently planned on the effects of cannabis use on academic outcomes, we will keep this under review as part of our work in relation to developing a cross-Government drugs research strategy. Through delivery of the National Drugs Strategy we will continue to drive the sustained fall in cannabis use amongst young people that we have experienced since 2001.

Luckily for us we don’t have to wait for government research as there’s some about already.  Susan Greenfield made a number of references to the accademic literature in her piece for the TES a few years ago (which provoked some debate on this blog), and the JRF also have a very pertinent paper on this subject.

Update – I’ve done a bit more digging and see that Mr Walker is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cannabis and Children.

Filed under: cannabis, Parliament, random drug testing

Parliamentary Question – Schools: Health Education

David Crausby MP, the Labour MP for Bolton North East, asks what steps the DCSF:

is taking to inform school children of the adverse effects of (a) smoking and (b) alcohol abuse.

The Minister, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, says:

Currently all schools should teach pupils about the effects of smoking and alcohol abuse, as part of drug education, through a well planned programme of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. The Department’s guidance, “Drugs: Guidance for Schools” (DfES 2004) sets out in broad terms what should be covered in each key stage.

We announced our intention to make PSHE education statutory in October 2008, in recognition of the key role it plays in equipping children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to lead healthy and successful lives. At the same time we launched an independent review of how this might be achieved in the most effective and practicable way. Sir Alasdair Macdonald, the headteacher of Morpeth school in Tower Hamlets, is conducting the review and will report in April 2009. Proposals for the statutory implementation of PSHE will be the subject of a full public consultation.

We cannot expect drug and alcohol education on its own to “solve the drug problem” in this country. That is why we are also increasing our focus on intervening with families at risk and continue to improve the support and treatment that the vulnerable young people who are most likely to develop a problem need.

Filed under: drug education, Parliament

Anti-Drug Awareness

Graham Allen speaking in a debate in Parliament the other day:

As part of Nottingham’s early intervention initiative, our city is leading the way on an anti-drug and alcohol education programme with a £750,000 programme, Drug Aware, that will reach every young person in our city. For about the cost of a year’s intensive treatment for a handful of addicts, we will effectively provide inoculation against drug and alcohol abuse for every child in Nottingham…

The whole debate is worth looking at (and I’ll give a flavour of it below), but wanted to highlight what Veron Coaker, the Minsiter responding to the debate, had to say:

It may help if I speak more broadly about education. Clearly, it is essential, but I believe that we have sometimes asked the wrong questions about drugs education. There is quite a lot of such education in schools, and I provided it when I taught personal and social education, which was a new subject then. The question is not, “Is there enough drugs education in schools?” but “What is effective drugs education, and what works and makes a difference?” Some of the current research by the Blueprint programme, my hon. Friend’s evaluation and the comments from hon. Members here are beginning to answer that question. That provides a great deal more hope for the future than just arguing about the amount, and many teachers agree.

I refer my hon. Friend to the “Drug Education: An Entitlement for All” report to the Government by the advisory group on drugs and alcohol education in September 2008 on personal, social and health education, and teacher training. In their response the Government agreed to examine initial teacher training and the non-statutory nature of PSHE. We will conduct an independent review of PSHE, focusing on improved outcomes for children and young people, and on a statutory common core for PSHE. If we go to the heart of what my hon. Friend said—lots of other issues arose—I hope that, depending on the outcome of that review, we shall start to address the fundamental point. That review will be an important piece of work, to which we must all contribute if we want to move forward.

As someone who worked on the the report he refers to, “Drug Education: An Entitlement for All”, I know that it hasn’t yet been published, nor has the government given their response – both should be out shortly.  So the cat is somewhat out of the bag…

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: drug education, Parliament

Parliamentary Answer – PSHE and drug education

As part of a very long response to a set of questions largely about human rights issues, Justice Minister Lord Hunt says:

In the final part of this Question, Lord Laird asked about the access of children to information on social and health issues. The Government are committed to the provision of Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE) in schools and recognise its valuable contribution to the personal, social and moral development of pupils. High quality PSHE is key to meeting the five Every Child Matters national outcomes for children and an important part of meeting the new duty to promote well-being. The Government believes that recent changes, such as the revised secondary curriculum, the new duty to promote wellbeing and the emphasis on Every Child Matters outcomes give PSHE a secure place in the curriculum. Currently there are no plans to change the statutory status of PSHE. Many aspects of PSHE already have a statutory basis — sex education, drug education and careers. In addition there are number of requirements which support PSHE in school such as the need for policies on bullying, promoting race relations and child protection.

Filed under: drug education, Parliament, PSHE

Parliamentary Written Answers

Hansard carries a couple of questions to the Home Office (and their answers) that may be of interest.  First up one which is pretty broad:

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent steps the Government has taken to reduce levels of illegal drug consumption.

Mr. Coaker: In February, the Government published the new 10-year drug strategy, Drugs: protecting families and communities, which sets out the action that will be taken to address the harms caused by drug misuse and to reduce levels of drug consumption. This strategy builds on the successes of the previous drug strategy, focusing action where it will generate the greatest benefit and extending the reach and effectiveness of our interventions.

Since the introduction of the previous strategy in 1998, we have seen significant falls in the self-reported use of illegal drugs. Data from the British Crime Survey show that in 2007-08, compared to 1997, the proportion of respondents aged 16-59 reporting the use of any illegal drug in the year preceding the survey fell from 12.1 per cent. to 9.3 per cent., while the proportion reporting the use of class A drugs remained stable. The same data show us that, compared to the previous year, there have been significant reductions in the use of cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis.

This pattern is repeated among young people. Data from the survey show that, among young people aged 16-24, class A drug use has fallen from 8.6 per cent. in 1997 to 6.8 per cent. in 2007-08, while the use of any illegal drug has fallen from 31.8 per cent. to 21.3 per cent. over the same period. Again, there have been falls in the use of individual drugs compared to the previous year, including cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis.

The drug strategy takes a comprehensive approach to reducing the demand for, and consumption of, illegal drugs. This approach spans:

  • prevention activity through more effective drug education and information, and through early targeted interventions with the families and young people who are most at risk of developing problems; interventions through the criminal justice system where problematic drug misuse has led to offending, coupled with tough enforcement action to tackle the supply of illegal drugs;
  • effective treatment and support, to help people to overcome problems with drugs and to re-establish their lives; and
  • communications activity, to support parents in preventing drug use among their children, and to increase the confidence and resilience of communities.

Copies of the drug strategy were placed in the Library at the time of its publication and I refer my hon. Friend to the actions in the strategy which are being taken to reduce the use of illegal drugs.

Here’s one on consultations:

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what (a) listening exercises and (b) public forums her Department has held in each of the last two years; and what the (i) purpose, (ii) cost, (iii) private contractor and (iv) amount paid to the private contractor was in each case.

Mr. Byrne: Listening exercises and public forums were held on Citizenship, Immigration and Integration; “Tackling Drugs—Changing Lives”; Crime and Drugs Strategy; Counter Terrorism community visits; Drugs Consultation; Young People Consultation; and Schools Pack Conferences.

The purpose of these events was to gain public feedback to inform the Green Paper on “The Path to Citizenship”; to gain feedback for the next drug strategy; for Ministers to hear and learn from the concerns of community members they meet; to inform, support and mobilise stakeholders to deliver on new crime and drugs strategies; to listen to the views of young people on drug issues; and to disseminate Understanding Drugs pack and pupil booklet to educational practitioners responsible for delivery of school-based drug education lessons.

To gain the information on the costs, contractors, and amounts paid to private contractors for each event could be obtained only at disproportionate cost, as this data is not recorded separately on the Department’s accounting systems.

Filed under: Parliament,

Education and Skills Bill

The House of Lords have been debating the Education and Skills Bill.

One of the amendments (asking for PSHE to be made statutory) will be of particular interest to readers of this blog and it’s on this that I’ll focus.

Baroness Garden (Liberal Democrat) moved the amendment and said:

For PSHE to become a statutory part of the curriculum, it is estimated that there should be a minimum requirement of an hour a week, incorporating the existing statutory requirements for education in sex and relationships, drugs and alcohol, as well as careers guidance. From Ofsted reports we know that the quality of PSHE education as it currently stands is extremely variable and not universally well taught. Under this amendment, PSHE would become a teaching specialism, with initial teacher training set up to ensure a high-quality teaching workforce. That would raise the profile of the subject and reinforce the Government’s commitment to promote pupil well-being.


Lord Lucas (Conservative) wasn’t sure that PSHE should be examined but went on to say:

I see it as much more of an entitlement. It is extremely important that children should be offered exposure to this area, and schools are generally pretty bad at it. Schools do not offer children much education on how to manage money, on how to get on with relationships of various sorts or on sexual health, other than that set out at the moment in some rather unimaginative structures.


Baroness Howe (Crossbench) was concerned that amongst the many other issues that schools need to deal with this won’t be a priority unless there is statutory force behind it.

Lord Elton (Conservative) expresses concern about subjects which a deemed to be cross-curricular don’t get taught.

Barroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat) supports the ammendment and argues:

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, did not like the idea of examining the subject. I tend to agree, but it may not be necessary to examine the subject as long as Ofsted inspects the quality. I also agree that PSHE should permeate the whole school and has an effect on the school ethos. We, too, believe that it should be an entitlement, which is why we tabled the amendments, which seek to ensure that every child receives PSHE and that it is high quality. Making this a statutory requirement would mean that teachers were properly trained to deliver some of these very sensitive subjects. Some of the CPD budget could be devolved to train people who already deliver PSHE in many schools but have not been properly trained to do so.


Lord Adonis spoke for the government:

The Government’s policy on making PSHE statutory has not changed, but it is far from complacent. In the first place, much of PSHE is already statutory in schools. All schools must have a sex education policy, which is supported by statutory guidance issued by my department on the content and teaching of sex and relationships education. This education is required in law to include education about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. In addition, statutory content in the science curriculum supports teaching about sex and drugs, healthy eating and the importance of exercise…


He says it has been a departmental priority to improve PSHE teaching through guidance, funding conitnuing professional development, and spreading good practice. He points out that guidance says to gain Healthy School Status a school will:

“[Invlove] professionals from appropriate external agencies to create specialist teams to support PSHE delivery and to improve skills and knowledge, such as a school nurse, sexual health outreach workers and drug education advisers”.


He points to the good work of the PSHE Association, and argues that things are improving:

Ofsted reported in March 2007 that in primary schools, teaching and learning was judged to be at least adequate in nearly all PSHE lessons and good in three-quarters of them. In secondary schools, the quality of teaching and learning has shown a steady improvement, with 66 per
cent of lessons in key stage 3 and 75 per cent of lessons in key stage 4 judged as good.


He ends on a consilatory note:

we continue to keep the position of PSHE under review. The review of the primary curriculum, which is currently being led by Sir Jim Rose, has a specific remit to consider how to develop an integrated framework for the personal skills that all pupils should develop through their schooling. Good PSHE is essential to this process. There are also ongoing reviews of drugs education and sex and relationships education. We will consider all three reviews when they report and the future position of PSHE in the curriculum in the light of them.


Baroness Garden asks how many teachers teach PSHE without a specific qualification or training, to which the Minister says he doesn’t know. And on that note the Baroness withdrew the amendment.

Filed under: Parliament, PSHE,

PQ – Domestic Violence: Curriculum

Madeline Moon, the MP for Bridgend, has asked a Parliamentary Question on how domestic violence is managed in the national curriculum:

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on the treatment of domestic violence issues within the curriculum.

Mr. Coaker: The Home Affairs Committee Report into Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and “Honour”-Based Violence published in June this year made recommendations on the treatment of domestic violence issues within the curriculum. The Home Office and DCSF have been working together on the Government’s response to the report.

The curriculum already provides scope for the exploration of issues relating to domestic violence principally, although not exclusively, within personal, social and health education (PSHE), which includes sex and relationship education (SRE). It is important that we focus efforts on raising the overall standard of teaching in PSHE and SRE, where issues to do with healthy relationships, managing conflict and aggression would be addressed, and alerting schools to ways in which domestic violence can be used as context for exploring key concepts within the PSHE curriculum. To raise the standard of teaching we are already training teachers on PSHE, rolling out the Healthy Schools Programme and providing advice and guidance through bodies such as the QCA and PSHE Association.

We are also currently conducting two parallel reviews on how to improve the teaching of sex and relationships education and drug education within the context of PSHE. We will give careful consideration to all of the recommendations from the reviews when they report later this summer.

Filed under: drug education, Parliament

Debate on the Children’s Plan

The House of Lords held a debate on the Children’s Plan yesterday, Hansard has the full thing, but here are a few snippets.

Barroness Massey:

Why should it take years to get floodlighting permission or permission to set up a club or build changing facilities or have nets for cricket? This is not my noble friend the Minister’s area of responsibility but can he speak to Ministers who have this brief and try to inject a sense of urgency? Young people need recreational facilities in every community and communities are sometimes denied quick and easy access to setting them up. We are all concerned about youth crime. Why do we not try to engage young people at a local level in something different?

The Bishop of Norwich:

One striking thing about the Good Childhood inquiry is that when children themselves are consulted, many who have not experienced a good home have more than an inkling of what it is—70 per cent say that loving parents in a good home is what makes childhood happy. I suppose that one thing that we have to do in relation to our extended schools programme is to introduce more children to the idea of what a good home is like.

However, there is another side to all this, as the Good Childhood inquiry has revealed. While one group of children needs security, others are overprotected. A quarter of all children aged between 11 and 15 have never been to the park or the shops on their own. That is where I think a constructive strategy on the value of play—especially outdoor play, which enables children to achieve independence in life—is good, and the Children’s Plan recognises that.

The Earl of Listowel comments on what the plan has to say about looked after children:

we must not overlook the trauma that most of these children have experienced. To do so would seriously put at risk the chances of success in these children’s schooling. Sixty per cent of these children arrive in care as a result of abuse and another 10 per cent because of family breakdown. We are right to have the same aspirations for these children as for our own children, but we must not forget—thank heaven—that our children have not experienced the trauma, loss, rejection, broken relationships, abuse of trust, and often violence that many of these children have experienced. For many of these children a close relationship with an adult is a fearful thing. Paradoxically, they will automatically seek to avoid, undermine or destroy such a relationship as much as a part of them is desirous for it. Feelings arising from their past may well turn them inwards, possibly resulting in depression, self-harm and drug or alcohol abuse; or turn them outwards, possibly resulting in verbal or physical attacks on others or on their physical environment.

Lord Ramsbotham:

It is remarkable, going into young offender institutions and looking at the education achievement or non-achievement of these people, that many of them have dropped out of school and, when you talk to them, are unsure whether the reason was boredom before drugs, or drugs before boredom. The word “boredom” worries me because it suggests that the teachers are not engaging them. You do not engage them by repeating the blackboard-type instruction from which they have walked away.

And later:

There is an opportunity in the pipeline to change all that, by picking up the ideas that have come from an organisation called East Potential in the East End of London, which suggests that a ring could be drawn around an area with about a one-hour radius from the centre, and all children who become involved in the criminal justice system within that radius should all be based on an establishment that would include within its perimeter a foyer, a place for homeless youngsters; a high-level security centre for the small few; and the facilities—the classrooms, the drug treatment centres, the workshops and other places for activity—related to that local area. The ownership of what went on with people in an area would therefore be delegated to the people in that area, which would provide a chance for consistency and continuity so that relationships between the damaged young, the young who are turning down the crime road, could be consistently looked after. They would get to know the people and could build up a relationship that might be the vital thing that kept them on the right road.

That is a splendid development because it has come up from below, from the housing associations in the East End. It has been supported by industries that can see the opportunity for training people to be employed by them. It has come from those involved in education and in drug treatment, who can see that there is continuity in the plan. It has come from social workers, who feel that it is another way of getting over the problems of inconsistency of the treatment of people in care. Here is an opportunity for the new consortium to pick up and pilot something that is designed to eliminate the problems that are created by the current situation.

Baroness Walmsley:

Chapter 6 includes youth alcohol and drug action plans but there is nothing about standing up to the supermarkets about selling cheap alcohol to kids. Why not? There will be a review of best practice in sex and relationship teaching in schools. When will the Government make it compulsory? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, about that.

Right at the end of the plan there is the plum—a commitment to a youth crime action plan. I am pleased to say it talks about restorative justice, prevention and education and offers a serious look at what happens when children leave custody. There is recognition that further action is needed to ensure the safety of children and young people in the youth justice system. However, the best way to ensure children’s safety in custody is to keep them out of it. During the recent passage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, much discussion took place about the introduction of a distinct children’s custody threshold. Such a threshold would have to be met before any child was sentenced to custody. Will the Government seriously consider that proposal within the process of developing the youth crime action plan?

Filed under: Parliament, ,

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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