Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Questions 204 - School curriculum [27027/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Questions 204 - School curriculum [27027/23]. (01 Jun 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

204. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Education if any consideration has been given to supporting education programmes surrounding alcohol and drug misuse in schools which can be delivered by the local alcohol and drug task force team; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27027/23] 

Norma Foley, Minister for Education - The issue of alcohol misuse is addressed throughout the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme, which has a specific module on the use and misuse of a range of substances. As students progress through the SPHE programme from primary to post-primary, they encounter a wide range of issues, including substance misuse. 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 difficult issues, including drugs, alcohol and gambling. 

SPHE is currently mandatory in all primary schools and in Junior Cycle, where it forms part of the mandatory 'Well-being' area of learning. Schools are also encouraged to deliver the SPHE programme in senior cycle. 

Relevant topics in SPHE include student decision-making skills and safety and protection. Students learn how to exercise judgement, weigh up different possibilities, examine the steps and choices that guide them towards considered decision-making, begin to understand their own rights and the rights of others, and explore decision-making. In respect of safety, students’ ability to assess the consequences of risky behaviour is also developed. 

In 2020, the NCCA established two development groups, one for primary and one for post-primary, to oversee work in the area of SPHE/RSE curricular redevelopment for Primary, Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle. 

Following an extensive period of consultation, on 16 May, an updated Junior Cycle SPHE specification was published following the Minister’s approval and it will be introduced into schools in September. 

This new specification provides clear direction on the knowledge and skills that all students should gain during the three years of Junior Cycle SPHE. It places a strong focus on the development of important life skills that young people need growing up in a fast changing and complex world. The Learning Outcomes of Strand 2, Making Healthy Choices, include that students should be able to “investigate how unhealthy products such as nicotine, vapes, alcohol and unhealthy food and drinks are marketed and advertised”, to “discuss the physical, social, emotional and legal consequences of using addictive substances –immediate and long term-, and to “consider scenarios where, for example, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, food and electronic devices might be used to cope with unpleasant feelings or stress, and discuss possible healthy ways of coping”. 

The topic is also touched in Strand 4 - Emotional well-being, where students explore the potential impact of substance use on mental health. 

Work on Senior Cycle specifications has begun and it is expected to be available for public consultation in Q3 2023. A background paper was already published for consultation in October last year. Development of a draft Primary specification is expected to be completed in early 2025, with public consultation on this specification planned for 2024. 

In addition to this, the 'Know the Score' programme is a substance misuse programme published in 2019 for Transition Year or 5th year pupils. Know the Score can be found on HSE.ie, and training is available for teachers. 

My Department is working with the Department of Health and other government departments and agencies to support full implementation of the Government’s national drug strategy - Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery 2017-2025 and participated in the 2021 mid-term review of the strategy. To address priorities over the remaining period, six strategic priorities were identified in the review, to strengthen the health-led approach to drug use and to align with the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan. The first priority is to strengthen the prevention of drug use and its associated harms among children and young people. My Department is participating in the work of the dedicated Strategic Implementation Group established to lead on this priority. It is also a member of the strategy’s National Oversight Committee established on the launch of the Strategy, to give leadership and direction to support overall implementation.

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