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Train the teachers say drugs workers

Teachers urgently need training if they are to teach primary children about drugs, the Government has been warned.

Education's key role in "drugs tsar" Keith Hellawell's 10-year strategy for tackling misuse was welcomed by drugs workers. But they worried that teachers were not well prepared, while the unions complained it would place new pressures on the profession.

Local education authorities and schools will be responsible for the programmes - and for ensuring staff have the right training. Guidance and examples of good practice will be issued by the Department for Education and Employment before the summer.

The White Paper, Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain, is based on Mr Hellawell's first report as UK anti-drugs co-ordinator, and confirms that drugs education will begin at five with an emphasis on "broad life skills".

It is expected to be part of a personal social and health education curriculum. The aim will be to make drugs less culturally acceptable and promote healthy habits.

The strategy is intended to shift Britain's annual pound;1.4 billion drug-related budget from reaction to prevention. It covers most Government departments and ties into Labour's social exclusion work.

Ann Taylor, chair of the Cabinet committee on drug abuse, said: "One major group of people taking drugs are the same people playing truant, the same people excluded from school and in the end the same people that don't get jobs."

Mrs Taylor said new teachers already received drugs education training. But Ruth Joyce, head of education and prevention at the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse, said it was "cursory".

"It's probably insufficient to equip a new teacher to deal effectively with the delivery of a drugs education curriculum," she said.

No new money is promised for the programme beyond a "proportion" of assets seized from drug- dealers - pound;5 million last year.

An unenthusiastic National Union of Teachers said the need for training was now "critical". And NASUWT, the second largest union, said the Government was "copping out" by dumping social problems onto schools.

General secretary Nigel de Gruchy said there was little evidence drugs education at five worked. "It is based on guesswork," he said. "The past decade has seen an enormous increase in drugs education in schools, yet the problems seem as bad as ever."

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