Headlines: September 12th, 2003

Schools in the North West of England and the East Midlands are to pilot a drugs education programme for 11 to 13-year-olds. The six-million pound Blueprint Research Programme will arm teachers in 23 selected schools with the tools to work with pupils and their parents and educate them about drugs issues.The effectiveness of the scheme will be assessed over a two-year period and that study will influence drug education work in schools across the country. This innovative project is based on evidence gathered from around the world, which shows that open and supportive communication between parents, teachers and children can postpone the onset of drug taking or prevent it completely.

Blueprint is a joint project, which has the full backing of the Home Office, the Department of Health and Department of Education and Skills. In all 29 schools in the Derby, Derbyshire, Lancashire and Cheshire local education authority areas will be involved. The programme will be tested in 23 schools and a further six will be acting as comparisons. Extra school drug advisors will be provided in the four areas to support schools and teachers and to link in to the work of the local Drug Action Teams and their networks. Pupils starting at secondary schools this term will be taught the Blueprint curriculum for two school years. Assessment of the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of young people will continue until 2006 and final reports will be published the following year.

Drugs minister Caroline Flint said the scheme was the most significant research programme of its kind in this country and was about equipping young people with life skills, and not preaching to them. “Prevention is the key,” she said. “One of the most powerful tools we have is education. It is essential that we support vulnerable young people at an early stage, before they get involved in drugs and their problems escalate,” she added.