Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 15 - Schools health and safety [Drug and alcohol education] [10758/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 15 - Schools health and safety [Drug and alcohol education] [10758/16]. (19 May 2016)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2016...

15. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if educational programmes relating to drugs and alcohol addiction awareness in primary and secondary level schools are effective in addressing these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10758/16]


Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Schools have a role to play in supporting their students to develop the key skills and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices when faced with a range of difficult issues, including drugs and alcohol. This is mainly done through the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme, which has a specific module on the use and misuse of a range of substances. Addiction prevention is paramount.


SPHE is currently mandatory in all primary schools and in junior cycle. It will also form part of the new mandatory 'Wellbeing' area of learning for the new junior cycle. New guidelines for Wellbeing are currently being prepared by NCCA for use by schools from September 2017. In fact these guidelines are out for consultation presently and the NCCA would welcome the views of all stakeholders.


Schools are also encouraged to deliver the SPHE programme in senior cycle. In recent years, my Department Inspectorate published two composite reports which provide insights into the effectiveness of the teaching of SPHE at primary and post-primary level.


At primary level, the report published in 2009 drew from forty inspections of the teaching of SPHE. At post-primary level, the report published in 2013, drew from sixty-three inspections at post-primary level which focused on Junior Cycle SPHE and Senior Cycle Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). Within these reports, inspectors describe the overall quality of subject provision and whole-school support for SPHE as very good or good in most schools. In response to questionnaires in these schools, 84% of students strongly agreed that SPHE helped them to understand the reasons for substance misuse, and 90% of students strongly agreed that SPHE helped them to understand the effects of abuse on individuals.


Schools have access to a number of resources that support the delivery of the substance use module of SPHE. Examples include the "Walk Tall" Programme for primary pupils and a post-primary resource called "On My Own Two Feet". The Walk Tall programme materials have been updated and will be available to schools, through national professional development seminars in September 2016.


There is also the Health Promotion Initiative which involves the HSE Health Promotion Officers working with the Department's Professional Development Service for Teachers Wellbeing Team to support schools across a range of health issues including addiction prevention.


Data to date suggests that only 40% of schools are participating in this initiative. In September 2015 and in February 2016, circulars promoting Healthy LIfestyles in post -primary schools and primary schools respectively were issued. Through the circular schools were "strongly encouraged to participate in the HPS initiative".


The latest data, taken from my Department's Lifeskills survey (2012), indicate that more than 90% of primary and post primary schools provide their students with information on alcohol and drug abuse, through SPHE and other means. These results were almost identical to the position reported by schools through the 2009 Lifeskills survey.


The 2015 Lifeskills survey is currently being analysed and the results will be available shortly. This will allow for the measurement of schools' progress in this area, since 2009 and 2012. It will also include an update on schools participating in the Health Promoting Schools Initiative.


All of the proactive work done in schools complements the Government's Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013 - 2025 - Healthy Ireland. Schools can do so much but it is through working together, across Government departments, through families and communities that we can create an environment for our people who have the knowledge, skills and resilience to choose to lead a healthy life.

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