Drugs: Misuse

Department for Education written question – answered on 8th November 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of education in schools on drug misuse; and whether he will take further steps to reduce the risk of substance misuse in schools.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

From September 2020, relationships education became compulsory for all primary school-aged pupils, relationships and sex education compulsory for all secondary school-aged pupils, and health education compulsory for all pupils in state-funded schools.

The statutory guidance for health education now sets out the following content on drugs, and supplements drug education as a statutory subject in maintained schools as part of the national curriculum for science in key stage 2 and key stage 3:

  • Primary - the facts about legal and illegal harmful substances and associated risks, including smoking, alcohol use and drug-taking.
  • Secondary - building on primary and in addition covers the associated legal and psychological risks of taking drugs.

In health education, there is a strong focus on mental wellbeing, including a recognition that mental wellbeing and physical health are linked. This includes teaching about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, including drug misuse. The department is committed to supporting schools in their delivery of the new subjects and has published non-statutory implementation guidance titled ‘Plan your Relationships, Sex and Health Education Curriculum’, alongside teacher training materials. Both are designed to provide teachers with further clarity and practical advice on how to implement the curriculum, to help all teachers increase their confidence and quality of teaching. Online training was available for schools during the 2020/21 academic year, delivered through the regional network of teaching schools.

Support covers all the teaching requirements in the statutory guidance and including a teacher training module on drugs alcohol and tobacco, as part of a wider suite of teacher training materials: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-training-drugs-alcohol-and-tobacco.

The department has worked with Public Health England (now the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) to make sure good quality teaching resources are available for teachers delivering drug, alcohol and tobacco education. Lesson plans on drugs, alcohol and tobacco are now available on the PSHE Association’s website: https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and-resources/resources/drug-and-alcohol-education-%E2%80%94-lesson-plans.

The department is developing plans for monitoring implementation of relationships, sex and health education over time, including measuring teacher confidence in teaching the statutory requirements and whether additions or other changes to the curriculum will be required. We will of course consult widely over any proposed amendments to its content.

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