Drugs advice of 'no value'

20th July 2007 at 01:00
Enforcers are to play a key role in curriculum as current teaching is failing pupils, claims chief.

Scotland's drug enforcement chief has called for the redesign of the curriculum to improve the way youngsters are taught about the dangers of drugs.

Setting out some hard-hitting messages in an interview with The TESS this week, Graeme Pearson said half-hour lessons on drugs "once in a blue moon" are pointless. The head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency argues for drugs education to be embedded in every part of the curriculum, and for it to start at the end of primary with messages reinforced year-on-year.

The focus should be on the impact of addiction, as opposed to telling youngsters to "just say no", Mr Pearson adds. And everyone, from reformed addicts to young offenders, should be used in class to hammer home the message that drugs devastate lives.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the SCDEA was to play a key role in schools' drug education after a major report exposed shortcomings in teaching.

But the Educational Institute of Scotland has fired a warning shot, lauding Mr Pearson's vision while pointing out that A Curriculum for Excellence has promised teachers more flexibility in such teaching.

Mr Pearson's view, however, is that drugs education in the past has been too focused on what drugs look like and on their effects. "That half-hour was of no great value. What is of value is when you tell pupils about the impact of drug abuse on people's lives."

Good education, he claims, acts as an antidote to messages that drugs are fun and harmless.

"In magazines, with pictures of celebrities falling out of nightclubs at 3am, they're being shown it's fun. But when these celebrities fall down, they disappear off to a health farm in Arizona. If you fall and you're from a housing estate, you've fallen."

Drug education should start before youngsters reach their teens and start experimenting, Mr Pearson says.

By the secondary stages, youngsters should be drip-fed information within the normal curriculum. "It should be part of normal teaching, rather than a case of 'it's five past 12 so we're going to talk about drugs,'" he comments.

But Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS, cautions that "it would be unfortunate if the flexibility set out in A Curriculum for Excellence was to be reined in by some kind of requirement, for example, to pay attention to drug education".

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