FIVE-YEAR-OLDS and pupils with special needs are to be targeted in the next educational phase of the Scottish Executive's fight against drugs - despite some doubts expressed by teachers.
This follows an independent evaluation of the primary school initiative by the Scottish Council for Research in Education, to be published next week, which shows that the drugs programme had a positive impact on the knowledge, confidence and abilities of heads and teachers to handle drug education. It involved the head and one other teacher in primaries across Scotland.
Armed with renewed confidence that they have got it right, the Government agency Scotland Against Drugs (SAD) revealed this week that it hopes to pilot a new drugs education game in the near future called Stepping Stones aimed at pupils in primaries 1-3.
The research council report cautions, however, that teachers "are still somewhat anxious about teaching drug education, especially for younger primary pupils, either because they still do not see the relevance for this age group or in case this contradicts parents' wishes".
Designed by Rhona Dynowski, an assistant head on secondment to SAD, the new game is about choices and responsibilities and is intended to be taken home by children to play with their parents and others. She is now returning to her post and SAD is lookin for a replacement.
"Stepping Stones is about making drugs education fun and it's unique for this age group," Alistair Ramsay, director of SAD, told The TES Scotland. The agency now hopes to train secondary teachers along similar lines to the initiative in primary schools and has plans to extend training to special needs teachers.
The evaluation of the primary programme shows that most participants feel more able to identify a whole-school approach to drug education (91 per cent), are able to be more explicit about their own values and beliefs (86 per cent), are more confident about handling a drug-related incident in their school (86 per cent) and are able to initiate a plan of action related to drug education in their school (89 per cent).
The initiative involved 2,761 teachers from 29 of Scotland's 32 local authorities in 127 training events.
Welcoming the study, Mr Ramsay said: "One of the principal aims was to raise awareness and increase schools' abilities to teach drug education and when 96 per cent of the participants said it had, then the aim was met."
Almost all Scotland's schools provided drug education at the time of the last national survey in January last year. Ministers have committed pound;21 million over the next three years specifically for work directed at children, young people and families.