Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
584. Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps his Department is taking to tackle alcohol and drug abuse among young people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42741/08]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): Drug prevention education is implemented as part of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum in all primary and post-primary schools. The SPHE curriculum is mandatory in all primary schools and post-primary schools up to Junior Certificate Level, and is supported by full-time support services offering professional development to teachers and advice to schools. SPHE is designed to help develop students’ confidence and self-esteem, and promote the skills for living, for responsible decision-making, and for mental, physical and emotional health and well-being. SPHE includes substance misuse prevention education as an integral part which must be implemented by all schools.
At primary level, the Substance Misuse Prevention Programme (SMPP or ‘The Walk Tall’ Programme) is a national programme, established in 1996, to provide inservice to teachers in primary schools in the area of legal and illegal substances. The programme teaching and resource materials focus on both alcohol and drugs in an age-appropriate manner. The programme has an integrated approach to drug education and is a key strategy in drug abuse prevention education. Teaching and resource materials developed by the ‘ Walk Tall’ Programme are made available to all primary schools.
At post-primary level, the substance misuse prevention programme ‘On My Own Two Feet’, which is an integral part of the SPHE curriculum, draws on three approaches: knowledge-attitude, decision-making and social competence. As such, it is a comprehensive life-skills programme. All post-primary schools are invited to inservice training in SPHE each spring and autumn on a regional basis. A selection of SPHE topics is offered to teachers, including substance use education. Health Promotion Officers and Regional Development Officers, along with experts in specific areas such as substance use education, are involved in the delivery of this inservice.
A senior cycle SPHE programme is being developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). A curriculum framework has been finalised and substance use is one of the five areas of study planned for the programme. The NCCA is engaging in development work with a group of schools to see how the framework can best be implemented, preparatory to forwarding its advice to my Department.
Under Action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy, guidelines for developing a substance abuse policy were drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the former Health Boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in October 2002 to assist them in the development of appropriate substance abuse policies. The policy is intended to address both education concerning alcohol, tobacco, drugs and other dangerous or potentially substances and the procedures for managing incidents relating to them. The implementation of the guidelines is the responsibility of school authorities.
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