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More names for cocaine?

Estyn casts doubt on police taking classes and says teachers should lead in drugs education

SOME PARENTS may think that asking pupils to give the street names of drugs like cocaine and cannabis is a little too much information for their young.

But a series of probing questions, as part of a nationwide competition, recently required in-depth knowledge of the drugs underworld by secondary pupils in Wales.

Those who showed the most knowledge in the quiz, devised by the All Wales Police School Liaison Programme, won a school trip to a fire station.

Under the scheme, trained police officers have been taking more of a role in drug prevention in schools, and it has been highly acclaimed by independent evaluators for raising awareness of substance misuse.

But Welsh inspectorate Estyn suggests the programme, and those relating to it, are not preventing teenagers from dabbling in illegal drug-taking and a growing culture of binge-drinking .

Now they want to see teachers taking a lead, saying their input may be better valued by pupils and have a more lasting effect.

Many teachers have welcomed the arrival of police officers in the classroom to deliver personal and social education lessons, allowing them to concentrate on their subject teaching without having to answer difficult and embarrassing questions which they are not trained for.

But inspectors say schools need a policy for substance misuse programmes and suggest there is no substitute for teachers taking more of an active role. Inspectors visited 30 schools and looked at questionnaire responses from 56 others.

Their report says pupils prefer the type of real-life lesson delivered by outside agencies to the kind of teaching that relies on completing worksheets.

It is also highly critical of guidance from the Welsh Assembly on substance misuse in schools, calling for its revision.

"Circular 1702 has not been successful in influencing the attitudes and values of young people to the extent that it has prevented a significant minority from continuing to smoke, drink alcohol and use illegal drugs such as cannabis," it says.

However, the report does say there is evidence that current programmes are helping to delay the age when most young people start experimenting by smoking or dabbling with illegal drugs.

Most education unions see the main responsibility of schools and teachers to be the successful delivery of the national curriculum.

Dr Heledd Hayes, education officer at the NUT Cymru, said the greatest drawback to Estyn's recommendations could be time.

"I recently noticed otherJrecommendations that teachers be trained to spot the symptoms of asthma - where does it all stop and where will teachersJfind the time?" she said.

"They seem to beJhappy with theJAll Wales Police Liaison Programme. It is having a result at primary level and the hope is that this will be carried through to the teenage years of rebellion and experimentation."

The report also proposes that the government should require teacher-training institutions to offer trainees an initial qualification in PSE and for local authorities to offer training to teachers.

* Evaluation of the implementation and importance in schools of guidance on substance misuse is at: Leader, page 26

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