Wednesday, 30 June 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): My Department has not carried out a survey for the purposes outlined in the Deputy’s question. However, in line with action 32 of the National Drugs Strategy 2001 to 2008, my Department arranged for the implementation of the “Walk Tall” and “On My Own Two Feet” drugs education programmes in all primary and post-primary schools, respectively, in the local drugs task force areas during the school year 2001-02. These task forces were set up in the areas experiencing the highest levels of illicit drug use, in particular the areas where heroin abuse is most prevalent.
Schools play an active role in addressing the problems and consequences of the misuse of substances, including drugs, through the SPHE, social, personal and health education, curriculum which focuses on developing an informed and sensible attitude to substances. Through the SPHE curriculum, students are enabled to develop a framework for responsible and informed decision making about their health, personal lives and social development. In particular, the substance use module of the SPHE curriculum focuses on the issues relating to the use and misuse of a range of substances. While most young people are aware of the implications and consequences of misusing substances, the SPHE curriculum actively seeks to promote healthy and responsible choices by students in regard to their lives.
All post-primary schools were required to implement the SPHE curriculum from September 2003 in line with action 33 of the national drugs strategy and as set out in my Department’s circular M11/03. The 2003-04 return of pupil information from 743 post-primary schools indicates that all post-primary schools are complying with this requirement. Ongoing support in the implementation of SPHE continues to be provided to schools through the post-primary SPHE support service, which is a partnership between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.
Supports are also being provided to schools through the SPHE support service for the development of their substance use policies. Guidelines for developing a school substance use policy were prepared by my Department, together with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards, and circulated to schools in 2002 in accordance with action 43 of the national drugs strategy. The central objective of a school substance use policy is the welfare, care, protection and education of every young person. The school policy can ensure that schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and managing issues relating to substance misuse in a planned and considered way. In 2002, schools were asked by my Department to engage with the process of developing their substance use policies, if they were not already engaged with this process or if they did not have one in place already.
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