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Dillon, Lucy (2020) Know the Score. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 73, Spring 2020, pp. 18-19.

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Know the Score is a new Government resource for Senior Cycle teachers to support their delivery of the substance use module of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme.1 By supporting teachers, the resource aims to guide and support students (aged 15–18 years) to ‘make conscious and informed decisions about alcohol and drugs’ (p. 4).1 This complements the Health Service Executive (HSE) guide for parents on how to communicate with their children about alcohol and drugs published in August 2018.2 The resource was launched by Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD, and Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne TD on 27 November 2019.

Social, Personal and Health Education

SPHE sets out to provide students with dedicated time to ‘further develop knowledge and understanding, values and attitudes and the life skills they need to live healthy lives and to contribute positively to the health and wellbeing of others and their communities’ (p. 7).3 Unlike in primary schools and the Junior Cycle in post-primary schools, SPHE is not a mandatory part of the curriculum for Senior Cycle.

Developing the resource

Know the Score is the outcome of a collaboration between the HSE Alcohol Programme and HSE Addiction Services, which was overseen by a Steering Committee made up of representatives from the HSE, the Professional Development Service for Teachers, and the Drug and Alcohol Task Forces. The resource content was also piloted by teachers and students in 10 schools.

Resource content

The objectives of Know the Score are aligned with those of the Curriculum Framework for the substance misuse module of SPHE (see Box 1). The wide range of objectives is reflected in the resource’s content. It is structured around 14 lesson plans and three short videos, and uses experiential and interactive teaching methodologies.1,4 Each lesson plan comes with a set of learning outcomes and resources for the teachers to draw upon in their delivery. Broadly speaking, Know the Score sets out to teach accurate information about drugs and related issues, as well as developing the skills necessary to make healthy choices and minimise the risk associated with substance use.

The resource includes relevant factual information, guides for class discussions, worksheets, and other activities. Based on an examination of the 14 sets of learning outcomes, some of the topics included are:

Factual information about the range of drugs (both legal and illegal) and their effect on the user’s body and brain, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing

Prevalence of substance use among young Irish people

> Students’ values, attitudes, and feelings in relation to substance use

> Assertiveness and communication skills in the context of substance use

> Positive strategies for dealing with stress as an alternative to substance use and personal skills to enhance confidence

> Low-risk drinking guidelines and methods for monitoring alcohol intake

> Awareness building of cultural attitudes towards alcohol in Ireland and the influence of alcohol brands and their advertising and sponsorship activities

> Skills development to deal with an emergency situation caused by substance misuse

> An understanding of cannabis, its legal status, and the myths and realities associated with its use.

As mentioned above, Know the Score also includes supporting digital content – three short videos – which aims to facilitate informed discussions about alcohol and drugs in the classroom. The topics covered are: drugs, the brain and dependency; cannabis; and risks of adolescent substance use.

Monitoring delivery

As with all SPHE modules at Senior Cycle, only pupils whose schools choose to deliver the substance misuse module will have the opportunity to benefit from the Know the Score resource. For schools that choose to deliver the module, it will require a teacher with the capacity and ability to deliver on the potentially sensitive content and the experiential and interactive teaching methodologies. A programme of one-day training sessions on Know the Score is underway and open to teachers nationally.5 At the time of writing, there are no plans in place to evaluate the resource and its delivery.

1 HSE Alcohol Programme (2019) Know the Score: substance use resource materials for Senior Cycle SPHE. Dublin: Health Service Executive. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/31359/

2 Health Service Executive Alcohol Programme (2018) Alcohol and drugs: a parent’s guide. Practical advice to help you communicate with your child about alcohol and other drugs. Dublin: Health Service Executive. This guide was published in August 2018 and complements the students’ resource. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29435/

3 National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (2011) Social, Personal and Health Education: Curriculum Framework. Senior Cycle. Dublin: NCCA. Available online at: https://www.ncca.ie/media/2688/sphe_framework.pdf

4 Links to the videos can be found at: https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/31359/

5 A training programme for teachers commenced in January 2020 and the Department of Education and Skills has provided substitution cover for this teacher training. Schools interested in attending the training or viewing a copy of the resource can visit: www.hse.ie/knowthescore

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