Pupils fear taking drugs by accident

21st April 2000 at 01:00
The latest reports examined by Reva Klein. Primary schoolchildren are enthusiastic about drugs education and believe it should be introduced much earlier than it is - although they don't always understand the message.

While Year 6 schoolchildren are almost unanimously against smoking, alcohol was a different story. The vast majority interviewed as part of a Home Office-funded drugs project had tried alcohol - usually small amounts on family occasions - but not many claimed to have drunk more. Few mentioned the dangers of alcohol. The only one to do so was a girl who had learnt about alcohol at a youth club, not at school. There was no indication that the children understood that alcohol causes more deaths than other drugs, although they seemed to comprehend that alcohol was a drug.

There was a general expectation among the primary schoolchildren that they would be offered drug at secondary school. But there was widespread fear, which teachers had not discussed in drugs lessons, that they would be forced to take drugs or their drinks would be spiked. Although their drugs education lessons focused on resisting peer pressure and the health risks involved, their greatest concern was that they would inadvertently take drugs. It is a scenario which they are likely to have seen on television, and in films and newspapers.

The authors suggest that this mismatch between lesson content and understanding justifies pupils being involved in evaluations about their drugs education programmes. Their feedback could make the content more accessible and relevant.

Drugs Education at the Transition from Primary to Secondary School: The Pupils' Views by Pam Cole, Department of Educational Studies, University of Sheffield, 388 Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JA.

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