Pathways to Problems and Drugs - facing facts


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A presentation to the Drug Education Forum on two reports and what they say about drug education

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Pathways to Problems and Drugs - facing facts

  1. 1. Pathways to Problems Drugs – facing facts What they say and how do we respond?
  2. 2. The Critique of Drug Education <ul><li>Two reports on drugs with high media impact in the last 6 months give the impression: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Drug education doesn’t work” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Is that what they’re saying and if so what’s our response? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Pathways to Problems <ul><li>Most schools in the UK provide drug prevention programmes. Research indicates that these probably have little impact on future drug use. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Our Response <ul><li>The report is confused (and confusing) about drug education </li></ul><ul><li>It doesn’t recognise the wider prevention role </li></ul><ul><li>It doesn’t address out of school education and prevention </li></ul><ul><li>But there are a number of recommendations that we’d support. Particularly: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Continuing large scale survey work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extending drug education in FE and Higher Education settings </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. RSA: Drugs – facing facts <ul><li>2 years work by independent commission. </li></ul><ul><li>Critique of current drug strategy and the policies of successive governments. </li></ul><ul><li>Premise is that strategy should be about reducing harm. </li></ul><ul><li>Less focus on criminal justice. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Drugs – facing facts Critique of the drug strategy <ul><li>“The overall ethos of the current drugs strategy is one of law enforcement and crime prevention rather than one concerned at least as much with education, public health, the health of individuals, social support and social cohesion.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. RSA on drugs education <ul><li>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 . </li></ul>
  8. 8. Inconsistent <ul><li>While some schools work out integrated drugs education programmes, others string together a miscellany of different lessons without reference either to the PSHE programme as a whole or to other parts of the curriculum. Different teachers may convey different messages , and they may all be at odds with the policeman or the recovering drug user who is brought in to deliver the occasional presentation. The fact that pupils may get different answers to the same questions from one lesson to the next does not add to the credibility of the overall message. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Irrelevant <ul><li>Pupils are likely to want to know about the social implications of drug use, the factors that may lead to misuse, how much drugs can cost and the impacts that they may have on their lives, but the teaching they receive is often confined to scientific facts on the potential health effects of drugs… In general, school drugs education tends to concentrate too much on the extreme consequences of dependence on Class A drugs, whereas the majority of pupils are more likely to encounter solvents, cannabis and amphetamines. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Disorganised <ul><li>Too often the messages delivered in school are not reinforced at home or anywhere else in pupils’ lives. Sometimes the messages are actively resisted by parents, either because they resent what they see as preaching about the misuse of alcohol and tobacco alongside illegal drugs or, in some ethnic communities, because they feel the whole subject is unsuitable. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Inappropriate <ul><li>Most importantly, school drugs education often fails to convince because it still presents a message – ‘ Just say No ’ – that is too simplistic and takes no account of the experience of the pupils at whom it is directed. It comes across as artificial and, when delivered by adults who smoke and drink, as somewhat hypocritical. </li></ul>
  12. 12. The case for training <ul><li>Drugs education is taught sporadically in some schools by whoever is to hand. Even where the programme is more structured, since Personal, Social and Health Education is non-statutory, teachers are only required to become ‘familiar with’ the PSHE framework as part of their initial teacher training. The ACMD found that a large proportion of the people providing drugs education in schools, whether teachers or outside speakers, had had no appropriate training in the previous three years . </li></ul>
  13. 13. RSA broad recommendation <ul><li>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 . </li></ul>
  14. 14. What the RSA says in more detail <ul><li>The emphasis in school drugs education should be shifted away from Key Stages 3 and 4 and onto primary education, as a part of a wider move towards developing general awareness of health issues and decision-making capabilities in young children. </li></ul><ul><li>Identifying the conditions for potential drug misuse should form a standard part of early interventions to support the development of young children. </li></ul><ul><li>The only practical message for universal drugs education, in the later stages of secondary education at least, is harm reduction. </li></ul><ul><li>A greater proportion of the resources that go into increasing awareness and discouraging the abuse of drugs should be spent on work outside schools to reach young people in their own social settings and should focus on those who are most vulnerable to getting caught up in either using or supplying illegal drugs. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Education in context <ul><li>It is important to appreciate that education about drugs is only one part of any prevention activity. Others might include parenting programmes, mentoring services or diversionary schemes such as organized sport or arts programmes. </li></ul>
  16. 16. What they think drug education can achieve <ul><li>Formal drugs education seems to work best for young people who have not already started to use drugs and do not intend to do so; such people may find it useful in developing their resistance skills. For most, drugs education may produce short-term gains in knowledge, awareness and even inspiration, following, say, a theatre-based activity or a charismatic presentation from a former drug user. </li></ul>
  17. 17. What they think drug education can achieve <ul><li>However, what formal education evidently does not do is impel young people to translate knowledge into behaviour. It apparently does not discourage people who either are undecided about whether to take drugs or are strongly inclined to experiment. In the worst cases, drugs education may even encourage drug use. </li></ul>
  18. 18. What they think drug education can achieve <ul><li>Being more knowledgeable about drugs and the use of drugs is worthwhile in itself. In that sense drugs education certainly has an effect. Educators point out that the purpose of education in general is to impart knowledge. They add that to expect it also to change social behaviour may be unreasonable, particularly when the behaviour in question is often rooted in some of the most intractable of social and economic problems. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Primary Education <ul><li>In our view, primary school is the best place for ‘universal’ drugs education, aimed at every child in a class, to take place. The years from ages 6 to 11 are when children are forming their general attitudes to drugs but when the vast majority have not yet started to experiment. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Primary Education <ul><li>The message at this age will be that using a wide range of different substances – alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines, solvents and illegal drugs – can be dangerous, and the aim will be to discourage children from using them. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Primary Education <ul><li>Even if the aspiration of drugs education at this stage is to discourage children from ever using drugs, we think it should be judged worthwhile even if it does not deter every child from experimenting but instead succeeds in pushing back the moment at which they first do so. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Secondary Education <ul><li>It is unproductive to try to discourage people from taking drugs if they are not considering doing it. It is equally unproductive to preach an uncompromising abstinence doctrine to people who are already experimenting with alcohol, tobacco and drugs. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Secondary Education <ul><li>We believe that the only sensible message for universal drugs education, in the later years of secondary education at least, is one that has harm reduction as its main objective. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Secondary Education <ul><li>… general classes should be supplemented with extra support and advice on harm reduction for pupils who are considered to be most obviously at risk of having problems with drug use. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Messages <ul><li>Talk about substances young people are most likely to come across </li></ul><ul><li>Pitch what you say at the right level – ie will ex-users (largely heroin) experience be too far away from young people’s experience to be of immediate use? </li></ul><ul><li>Warnings about particular drugs – VSA, cocaine/crack, cannabis. </li></ul><ul><li>Warn against mixing drugs. </li></ul><ul><li>Put drugs in economic, social and political context. </li></ul><ul><li>The law and drugs. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Style guide <ul><li>All authorities agree that drugs education must be interactive. Children are said to remember 20 per cent of what they read, 30 per cent of what they hear, 40 per cent of what they see, 50 per cent of what they say, 60 per cent of what they do and 90 per cent of what they see, hear, say and do. Young people themselves say they want discussions, not worksheets, and they want to hear from each other rather than listen to lectures. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Style guide <ul><li>Outside school, language and imagery can be more outspoken and geared more directly to the people at whom the messages are aimed. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Our response?