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Murphy, Christopher A (2000) Drugs policy in schools. MSc thesis, Trinity College Dublin.

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This study is a qualitative investigation of drugs policy and practice in six Irish post-primary schools. The research was carried out by semi-structured interviews with individuals and small groups: teachers, students, principal teachers and parents, and by documentary analysis of school policies where available. The six schools cannot be regarded as a representative sample of schools throughout Ireland; it is better to regard the experience of the six schools as a collective case study illustrating the issues involved in making and implementing policy.

The aim of the research was to examine the nature of each school's policy and the process by which it was developed, and to look at how the policy is implemented in practice, comparing both policy and practice with what is regarded in the literature as "good practice".

It was found that in their policy documents schools express clear aims for a drug-free school environment and for educational programmes which address knowledge, attitudes and skills, to enable students to make healthy decisions about drugs. Many schools have combined pastoral care with discipline in the management of drug-related incidents. However, the policies often failed to inform practice. Some students and teachers were unaware of the policy content. Teachers of health education were confused about their aims - to educate or to prevent drug use?

Teachers and students seemed to share an implicit expectation that drug education ought to prevent drug use, even outside the school; but the literature and the experience of teachers indicates that this goal is rarely achieved by any educational programme. Students and teachers found the spiral curriculum of the health education programme repetitious; there was little evidence of programmes taking into account what the students already knew and no evidence of harm prevention or of the study of socio-cultural dimensions of drug use. Within the school, some staffs overlooked the role of supervision in maintaining the school as a drug-free environment, while others took this seriously. Both staff and students considered that this contributed to lower levels of smoking in the school.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Other
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Call No
NF24, MP18.2, VH4.2
92 p.
This MSc Drug and Alcohol Policy thesis is held in Trinity College library, Stacks, Thesis number 5941 Includes bibliographical references.
Accession Number
HRB 1468 (Available)
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