Juniors tackle drugs

6th October 2006 at 01:00
* New booklets ask pupils in KS2 to act out scenes involving drink and drugs * The aim is make them aware of the dangers before they reach puberty

Primary schools are being encouraged to act out passing joints at a party, taking ectasy and getting drunk at a wedding in a series of booklets promoting drug awareness. Infants are taught to use role play to learn the dangers of solvents, prescribed medicines and household substances. In one scenario they pretend to drink alcohol at a cousin's wedding.

Junior-aged pupils act out role plays where they are offered ectasy and acid by friends and dealers and are introduced to street terms for drugs.

David Uffindall, a drugs education adviser for North Yorkshire, said it was essential to teach kids about drugs at primary school so they were not left vulnerable to offers from older children when they reached secondary age.

He said: "There is a recognised kick-off time at about 12 or 13 when we know children will be offered substances more frequently. By teaching pupils an anti-drug message in primary school they are more prepared to deal with this and be confident enough to say no.

"I have had fairly knowledgeable 11-year-olds use words like 'hyper', draw syringes and label things 'bong' or 'pan', which is a spoon for heating up heroin. Unfortunately we live in a world where there are lots of substances. This kind of education is absolutely necessary for some children."

The first booklet Drugs Centre Stage, which aimed at seven to nine-year-olds, focuses on the idea of safety in the home and the dangers of consuming toxic products, such as cleaning fluids, as well as identifying and understanding the need for medical drugs such as asthma inhalers and insulin. It also introduces pupils to alcohol and includes a story explaining what it feels like to get drunk.

The story, called Cousin Susan's Wedding, describes the guests enjoying themselves at the reception, including Uncle Alex doing a chicken dance. It then tells how a young guest takes a glass of wine during a toast to the bride and groom to be like everyone else. "After quite a few sips," it says, "you start to feel funny. You can't stop yourself from giggling. The music gets in your head and you dance around and around and around."

For older juniors, the topics are much more advanced with an emphasis on alcohol and cigarettes as well as illegal substances.

The role-play activities look at peer pressure and bullying surrounding drugs with the final script featuring a boy who takes acid and runs out in front of a car.

One of the lines reads: "I think Gary's OD'd. He's not moved for a week and he's starting to smell."

Heroin, ecstasy, and spliffs are mentioned in the script along with drug jargon such as "fix", the concept of "cutting" drugs with other substances and "hyping up".

Although some teachers are wary about the complete content of the books, creator Chris Scanlan said the most shocking stories including the one about the boy on acid and the child who gets drunk at a wedding were specifically asked for by education drugs advisers.

He said: "I know not every teacher will want to use all the information but it is there if they want it. Children as young as 11 are known to deal drugs. They are certainly not unaware of what goes on."

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