Safety messages begin in the home

In national drug awareness week, a third of parents fear their children know more about illegal substances than they do

Drug education is moving out of the classroom and into the kitchen with a new infant school pack launched today in Manchester.

PRIDE - Parents' Role In Drug and Safety Education - is the latest product of the city's successful Partnership with Parents programme. With impressive results from trials in 26 Manchester primaries, it is now being made available with training to local authorities and schools around the country.

It takes the concept of the parent as the primary educator of young children and puts it into practice, working from the premise that children are more likely to take in drug and safety messages if they are closely linked to their home, where they can see them work in practice.

The trial has proved surprisingly successful in engaging families in some tough inner-city areas. PRIDE has involved the majority of parents. And follow-up tests have shown children, enthused by doing activities with their parents in their own home, retain the messages.

PRIDE involves a four-week programme of lively activities in class and at home. Although billed as drug awareness, PRIDE is about everyday perils from keeping bleach under the sink to stranger danger, rather than the specific risks of heroin or ecstasy. Parents found it useful in setting house rules.

It introduces very young children to the concept that what they take into their body - food, medicines, drugs - can be good or bad.

Co-ordinator Emma Beresford, of Manchester's inspection and advisory service, said most messages were deliberately uncontentious, although alcohol and tobacco proved a sensitive area. Some parents were concerned their children would become frightened to see mummy and daddy smoking.

But she added: "Quite a lot of parents who did smoke were keenest on the project and keenest to see their children get messages that it could be harmful."

Local police, health promoters and similar services were involved in drawing up the programme, 60 per cent of the funding came from the Department for Education and Employment.

Barbara Campion admits she had little to do with her six-year-old daughter's school until PRIDE. But she enjoyed it so much, and found Stephanie learned so quickly, that she wants to see Baguley Hall primary in Withenshaw do more of the same in other subjects.

"I can't emphasise dangers too much. No matter how much I say it, it will never sink in," she said. "But where they were learning in the project it sunk in much more.

"We live in an area where there are a lot of druggies and we see needles out on the playing fields. Now she knows they are dangerous - that was a very important lesson."

The most successful exercise was a game of snakes and ladders, where landing on a picture of broken glass or medicine sends you down a snake and landing on green veg sends you up a ladder. "That was the main thing that made her understand," Barbara said. "My daughter knows more than my son Andrew, and he's nine now."

Debbie Clayton, whose son goes to Pike Fold primary at Blackley, said: "When I heard it was about drug-awareness I assumed it would be about taking drugs on the street. But it wasn't. It was all about the different dangers in the home.

"I was surprised, because Jacques understood a lot more than I thought he would have done. The messages were really common sense, but as a mum you don't always think of them. It was something we could all connect with because it was everyday life."

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