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Do it if you DARE

For three months last autumn, police officers aimed to give nine-year-olds in a Mansfield junior school the confidence to say no to drugs.

The revolutionary American education programme Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), first taught in Los Angeles in 1983, was taught one day a week at Ethel Wainwright Junior School. The results of this pilot were so encouraging, all middle and junior schools in Mansfield took up the challenge to teach nine and ten-year-olds to say no.

The children were tested on their knowledge of drugs at the start and then again at the end of the three-month pilot. The success of the scheme was published in a 65-page report by North Nottinghamshire Health Authority and the Home Office drug prevention team.

By the end of the course, children knew at least one practical way to say "no" to drugs, had identified cigarette and alcohol as drugs, knew drink driving was illegal and understood the difference between prescribed and harmful drugs.

Inspector David Scott, a leading member in establishing DARE, says the 13 weeks show that a whole community approach is possible and that everyone in the community can benefit from the scheme.

Schools began teaching the programme - with 1,300 children taking part - on September 14, officially declared DARE day. An American police sergeant from Mansfield, Ohio, came to see the launch, as did four Metropolitan police officers who were finding out more about the campaign.

Events, stickers and posters encouraged support. There was a special "Dive for DARE" gala at the local swimming baths and later that week Mansfield Town Football Club wore DARE t-shirts during their match against Northampton.

Glenis Benford lives in Mansfield.

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