The acid and the ecstasy

Jenny Legg

A new drugs programme is educating primary pupils through drama, reports Jenny Legg

Stories of tripping on acid, smoking spliffs and taking ecstasy are more usually associated with adult party animals than primary schoolchildren.

But a new drugs awareness programme, specifically designed for primary pupils, deals with all kinds of drugs from aspirin and paracetamol through to ecstasy and acid.

Drugs Centre Stage encourages children to learn the difference between medicines and legal and illegal drugs through drama and role-play tasks in two resource booklets - one for key stage 1 and one for KS2.

David Uffindall, a drugs education adviser for North Yorkshire county council, said: "I have had fairly knowledgeable 11-year-olds use words like 'hyper', draw syringes and label things 'bong' or 'pan', which is a spoon for heating up heroin.

"Unfortunately we live in a world where there are lots of substances. This kind of education is a necessity for some children."

The KS1 booklet focuses on the idea of safety in the home and the dangers of consuming toxic products such as cleaning fluids, as well as identifying and understanding the need for medicines such as asthma inhalers and insulin for people with diabetes.

However, the booklet also introduces pupils to alcohol and includes a story explaining what it feels like to get drunk.

The story, called Cousin Susan's Wedding, tells how a young guest takes a glass of wine during a toast to the bride and groom to be like everyone else.

It said: "After quite a few sips, you start to feel funny. You can't stop yourself from giggling. The music gets in your head and you dance around and around and around."

At KS2 the topics are much more advanced. with an emphasis on alcohol and cigarettes as well as illegal substances such as ecstasy. The role-play activities look at peer pressure and bullying surrounding drugs, with the final script featuring a boy who takes acid and runs out in front of a car.

Heroin, ecstasy and spliffs are mentioned in the script along with drug jargon such as "fix", the concept of "cutting" drugs with other substances, and "hyping up".

Although some teachers are wary about the complete content of the books, creator Chris Scanlan said the most shocking stories - including the one about the boy on acid and the child who gets drunk at a wedding - were specifically asked for by education drugs advisers.

He said: "I know not every teacher will want to use all the information but it is there if they want it. Children as young as 11 are known to deal drugs. They are certainly not unaware of what goes on."

Pupils at Daubeney primary school in Hackney began trialling the booklets last week.

Year 6 teacher Pat Winyard said: "You can't teach drugs awareness to primary children in a sit-down lesson. It just won't work. If the kids are involved in any way, or know family members who are, they normally keep very tight-lipped about it.

"Using drama and role-play means we can touch on difficult subjects more freely."

She began the session with a general discussion.

She said: "Most children were aware of the dangers of drugs. They saw the funny side of getting drunk but realised there was a more serious side too."

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Jenny Legg

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