Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

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.”

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

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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