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Drug Education

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 22 May 2003

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6.

When they expect to have in place a nationwide drug education programme for 10-year-olds, and if they will make a statement. [114223]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills
(Mr. Ivan Lewis)

All primary schools are required to teach children about drugs. It is up to schools to decide the most appropriate programme to meet the needs of their pupils and the requirements of the national curriculum. The Government are boosting drugs education in all schools through new guidance, training and support for teachers.

This is my first cross-cutting question, Madam Deputy Speaker, so forgive me if I make any obvious mistakes. I congratulate the Government and the Opposition on this welcome innovation. I hope that the exchanges will be conversational, rather than a replica of what is said on the Floor of the House. Perhaps the heavyweight top table could look again at the seating plan in this Room because rather than getting the dialogue going among old colleagues, it replicates some of the worst features of the main Chamber.

My right hon. and hon. Friends and others will know that in Nottinghamshire every 10-year-old undertakes a course on 10 consecutive Fridays on what is called DAREā€”drug abuse resistance education. Many people have attended and I hope that the Minister may see an example of it soon.

Normally, a local police officer, or sometimes a teacher, gets involved with the children and teaches them to say no not only to drugs but to drink and cigarettes. That works wonders for the self-esteem of youngsters, so they break through a lot of the barriers. Will the Minister consider using the DARE programme or, indeed, any other programme, as a national model to be followed in some regard by other authorities? There are many good schemes here and there. I hope that the Minister agrees that it would be a great shame to come to the end of the second term of a Labour Government without a nationwide inoculation against the worst excesses of drug abuse by young children.

In the daily speculation about the future leadership of the Conservative party, my hon. Friend has never been mentioned as a potential solution.

Anything is possible.

My serious response to my hon. Friend's question is that I agree entirely with the objectives. We also agree that in influencing the behaviour of primary school children through drugs education, the stakes are incredibly high. Where we differ is on the means. We have backed away from prescribing a one-model approach to the provision of drugs education in this country. Having said that, programmes such as DARE need closer analysis so that we can learn from them for the national strategy. I give my hon. Friend an undertaking that when, in the near future I at last visit his constituency I shall visit a school where the DARE programme is being implemented. We can then reflect on some of its lessons for the wider drugs education policy in this country.