The RSA’s report, Drugs – facing facts, has gathered a lot of media attention. Here’s what I’ve picked up today:
Mark Lawson and Danny Kushlick in The Guardian, Alice Miles in The Times, Deborah Orr in The Independent, Anthony King in The Telegraph, The Mirror, The BMJ, and Iain Duncan Smith (with more here).
There’s not much discussion of the recommendations they make about drug education, and where they do its to selectively quote from the summary of the report, which says:
In the field of drugs education, there has been too little evaluation for anyone to be certain what works, but it is clear that much of it fails to achieve its objectives.Too much of it is inconsistent, irrelevant, disorganized, couched in inappropriate language and delivered by people without adequate training. The ‘Just say no’ approach has manifestly not worked. In the Commission’s view, the aims of policy should be, of course, to alert people to the risks of using drugs at all, but also to postpone first use, if any, until as late a date as possible.We recommend that drugs education should be focused more on primary schools and less on secondary schools, and that more heightening of knowledge and awareness of drugs should take place outside the formal school setting.
The Drug Education Forum will develop a full response to the report, but I think its safe to say that while we welcome the call for drug education to start in primary school (as it often does) and for an extension of education outside formal school settings we don’t think this should be at the expense of secondary school drug education.
I’m sure that readers of this blog won’t need to be reminded that only a few months ago the ACMD were arguing that drug education should be extended into the further and higher education spheres.
I wonder whether we might not try both! Developing age appropriate drug education for children and young people across primary, secondary, higher and further settings, and for informal education. Recognising that as children and young people grow they develop the capacity to understand subjects in more detail and are more likely to come into contact with drugs.
However, I’m going to need to set aside a fair chunk of time to read and digest the document, which in web form comes in at 335 pages long.
A quick search does reveal that the Forum has made a contribution to the commission’s thinking. Our DAT survey of a few years ago is cited in evidence about the loss of drug adviser posts and the report on involving children and young people in drug education is also referenced:
Organizations such as the Drug Education Forum and Mentor UK strongly advocate involving young people themselves in the shaping of projects and programmes.
Later they say:
Rather than ghettoizing drugs and alcohol education within Personal, Social and Health Education, such matters as the economics and geography of the drugs trade, the history of drugs policy and the philosophical issues surrounding the state’s regulation of personal behaviour could all be addressed elsewhere in the curriculum.‘Our work with children and young people,’ remarks the Drug Education Forum,‘indicates that they do not think about drugs in a vacuum but relate [the issue] to other issues and concerns in their lives.’
I’m not sure that we’d describe PSHE as a ghetto subject area, but the wider point seems well made to me, that other subjects can really contribute to children and young people’s understanding of drugs in our society, and to support them make decisions about their health.
Filed under: drug education, RSA