Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 468 - School curriculum. [17846/06]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 468 - School curriculum. [17846/06]. (16 May 2006)

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463. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the effectiveness of the drug prevention education programmes in our schools here; if they have been rolled out to all schools; her plans to revise these programmes based on findings of international best practice. [17846/06]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Drug prevention education is implemented as part of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curricula in primary and post-primary schools. The SPHE curriculum is mandatory in all primary schools and post-primary schools up to Junior Certificate Level in which substance use is one of 10 modules taught. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) SPHE course committee is currently finalising a Framework SPHE curriculum for Senior Cycle students at post-primary level, for submission to Council after which it will be submitted to my Department for consideration. At primary school level, a national 2 day programme of in-service training in SPHE was provided for all primary teachers during 2001-’02 and ’02 -’03. In addition, the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), through its SPHE Cuiditheoireacht service from September ’03 provides support for the implementation of SPHE in schools and for the formulation of Substance Use Policies through school visits. Further support and guidance in this area is available through the provision of ‘Drop in’ clinics in various Education Centres around the country. Furthermore, the SPHE trainers provided half-day seminars for designated members of teaching staffs in primary schools and parents — in non Local Drugs Task Force Areas — to help them formulate Substance Use Policies; the trainers also facilitated evening meetings for Substance Use Policy Committees. A callsave helpline is also provided for information and advice on the topic.

The Substance Misuse Prevention Programme (SMPP or ‘The Walk Tall’ Programme) is a national programme, established in 1996, to provide in-service 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 was offered to all primary and special schools 1998-2001. Approximately 3,048 (95%) schools participated in the training. 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 and special schools nationally. In the last academic year the Walk Tall Support Service produced a CD ROM of the programme materials and a handbook for teachers “Understanding Substances and Substance Use” and made it available to all schools nationally. Summer training courses are offered nationally to teachers. 16 courses took place in ’05. Approximately 350 teachers participated on the courses. The uptake on the summer courses nationally demonstrates that teachers outside of Local Drug Task Force Areas are receiving training on the ‘Walk Tall’ Programme. Courses took place in Limerick, Kildare, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Louth, Carrick-on Shannon, Mayo, Wicklow, Tipperary, Monaghan, Cavan and Tralee. The support service has a full time staff of three, comprised of a national support officer and two assistants on secondment from teaching duties. A part-time panel of approximately 20 teachers is available to deliver summer training courses nationally. The programme currently offers a dedicated support service to all schools in the 14 Local Drugs Task Force Areas in Dublin, Bray and Cork. At present officials in my Department are examining a proposal from the SMPP Steering Committee to expand the ‘Walk Tall’ programme to provide schools outside the Local Drugs Task Force Areas with a dedicated service also. 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 in-service training in SPHE each spring and autumn on a regional basis.

A selection of SPHE topics are 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 in-service. In addition, there is a dedicated Regional Development Officer who works with post-primary schools in the Local Drugs Task Force Areas, in assisting them with policy development and implementation of the policy guidelines on substance use in schools. Evaluation studies of the effectiveness of substance misuse prevention programmes such as ‘Walk Tall’ and ‘On My Own Two Feet’ are few but those that have been conducted show positive outcomes:an evaluation of the ‘Walk Tall’ programme concluded that the programme is in line with the most effective approaches that are used in programmes abroad another study conducted in the Local Drugs Task Force Areas found that the programme integrated very well with the SPHE curriculum. The ‘Walk Tall’ programme has been piloted in Northern Ireland and permission has been sought by the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to use the ‘Walk Tall’ materials as part of a Personal Development Curriculum. I am confident that together these initiatives are ensuring that the education system plays its role in combating drug abuse among young people. Clearly, however, this issue requires action on many fronts. To this end, the Government has put in place the National Drugs Strategy which aims to reduce drug abuse through investment in a mixture of different facilities and programmes and through actions by a range of Departments and Agencies. The evidence available to me from both the national Misuse Prevention Programme (SMPP) and the national SPHE Support Service informs me that the substance misuse education prevention programmes being implemented as an integral part of the SPHE curricula is in line with best international practice and while all programmes of this nature are constantly under review, I do not have any plans at present to revise the programmes.

Vol. 619 No. 4
Written Answers
Tuesday, 16 May 2006

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