HC Deb 21 February 1996 vol 272 cc353-4
6. Mr. Waterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if drugs education is taught as a part of the national curriculum. [14681]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mrs. Cheryl Gillan)

Drugs education is a statutory requirement of the national curriculum for pupils aged five to 16.

Mr. Waterson

Is my hon. Friend aware of the excellent and pioneering work being carried out in East Sussex on drugs education? Despite disappointment at the recent unsuccessful bid for further grant for education supported training funding, is it not excellent news that a charitable trust may be interested in providing financial backing for those efforts?

Mrs. Gillan

I am delighted to hear of the interest in the drugs prevention initiative to which my hon. Friend refers. I take the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend, who organised a seminar in his constituency on drugs and brought together head teachers, the police, the health authority and education agencies to consider the issue of drugs and young people. He is well known for his determination to combat drugs, as are the Government.

Mr. Alan Howarth

While acknowledging the pressures on the curriculum and the imperative not to compromise the commitment to improve academic standards, may I suggest to the Minister that the Government have not ensured that personal and social education receives the attention that it should and that the national curriculum inadequately addresses the need to educate young people to be responsible towards themselves and towards others, not least in relation to drugs?

Mrs. Gillan

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. Drugs education in the school curriculum is covered at key stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. The Government's strategy on drugs, starting with the White Paper entitled "Tackling Drugs Together", is followed by GEST funding of nearly £6 million, which is made available to train teachers with responsibility for drugs education and to provide support to innovative drugs education projects. In addition, last May we issued a circular on drugs prevention in schools. The hon. Gentleman should familiarise himself with the two guidance documents from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, entitled "Drug Education: Curriculum Guidance for Schools" and "Digest of Drug Education Resources for Schools". The Government are firmly committed to stamping out drugs misuse by young people.

Mr. Spring

Is my hon. Friend aware how much parents, teachers and governors have welcomed the new measures to tackle drugs misuse in schools, particularly the new role of drugs education co-ordinators in all secondary schools? Is my hon. Friend aware that in my constituency, spurred on by those initiatives, we have appointed a substance misuse training officer who will help to maximise schools' efforts to combat the drugs menace?

Mrs. Gillan

I am delighted to hear that news. My hon. Friend will be interested to learn that the Ofsted framework now includes specific reference to drugs education. As part of the regular four-yearly cycle of school inspections, Ofsted will look at schools' drugs education programmes and policies.