No, no narcotics

Liz Swinden

The Primary School Drugs Pack, Age group: 8-11, Pounds 39 plus pp from Health Wise, 1st Floor, Cavern Walks, 8 Mathew, Street, Liverpool L2 6RE. Tel: 0151 227 4415.

Tackling Drugs a Resource Pack for Schools, Age group: 11-16 Northamptonshire Police et al. Enquiries to Northamptonshire Police Community Involvement Department on 01604 7007002

Liz Swinden looks at two new anti-drugs packs and discovers that you're never too young to say no.

Schools are currently having to get to grips with drugs education what they are providing and, perhaps more importantly, what they should be providing. Education Secretary Gillian Shephard made it very clear, at last year's launch of the Department for Education circular on Drug Prevention and Schools, that any which do not develop adequate drug education programmes are failing their pupils.

Two new resources target the primary and secondary age ranges respectively. The Primary School Drugs Pack comes from Healthwise, which has already made a good name for itself with its previous packs on drugs and sex education in their sturdy, easy-to-use folders. Aiming to "inform children about drugs in a practical and realistic way that has their safety as their central focus", it starts with a clear rationale for doing drug education with primary children who, for the most part, are not using drugs, either legal or illegal. While we may cling on to outdated views about the innocence of children and putting ideas into their heads, the average age of first drug use is falling. Primary children are very aware of drugs and may well come into contact with them in their local communities.

This material is aimed at children in Years 5 and 6, although some of it could be adapted for younger ones. There are sections on staff awareness (with outlines of workshops), curriculum planning, pupil activities, dealing with drug incidents, how to work with parents and policy development for governors. The pupil material starts with activities to assess what children know and feel about drugs, then goes on to look at drug words, using a Basic Drug Facts card game which is included in the pack.

After looking at factual information about drugs, the activities then focus on feelings and attitudes and finish with a series of lessons on skills in drug-related situations. What would you do, the children are asked, if a friend offers you a cigarette on the bus or you find a syringe in the playground at lunchtime? The material for teachers contains similar case studies. What would you do if an eight-year-old tells you that his mother uses drugs from the doctor and his dad injects himself, or if you are told that a group of children use the school grounds in the evenings to sniff solvents?

I can thoroughly recommend this pack to any primary school wanting to start incorporating drug education into its personal, social and health education programmes. The secret, I think, is to link it as much as possible with other work which seeks to improve the self-esteem of the children.

Northamptonshire Police to-gether with other local agencies including Health Promotion, the Council for Addiction and the Education Department, has come up with a package to help teachers give 11 to 16-year-olds the facts about illegal drugs. It is, they claim, the first inter-agency initiative to provide a standard drug education package across a county.

Like the Healthwise pack, Tackling Drugs sets drug education firmly within PSHE, and gives a range of activities for use with secondary pupils, focusing on knowledge, attitudes and decision-making. Each activity is clearly set out with pupil worksheets where appropriate. In an activity called The Manipulators, for example, young people are asked to consider the motives of drug dealers, while in Assert Yourself they look at the appropriateness of different verbal responses to drug situations.

While the pack is not excitingly presented, it does contain some good ideas for classroom work as well as a section looking at the roles of those working in schools, which could be useful when policies are being developed. The pack is not available nationally at the moment, but contact the Northamptonshire Police if you're interested.

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