Local Drug Action Teams (LDAT) are working with a variety of target groups, and many are working with school-aged children. For LDATs interested in drug education in schools, the CLIMATE schools program will be of interest.
Good school-based education programs need to be age-appropriate and focus attention on the drugs most accessible to young people, starting with pharmaceuticals and alcohol and tobacco.
School-based drug education can help to shape young people’s attitudes to AOD and whether and how they use them, but the way it’s done makes a big difference.
Drug education should aim to prevent or delay the start of drug use because early use can be immediately harmful and lead to dependence later in life, but it can also address harm reduction issues where appropriate.
It’s important that drug education activities are made part of the school curriculum (rather than external or one-off programs). Usually they take place within the school’s health curriculum and are most valuable when conducted by the students’ classroom teacher. Approaches to avoid are scare tactics and one-off talks (e.g. by an ex-user), which can actually increase interest in drug use.
The CLIMATE Schools program is a ready-made drug education program for schools developed by a group of leading AOD organisations, including the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Importantly, CLIMATE Schools addresses the issues of alcohol and drug use from a health and wellbeing perspective.
It offers different modules for each year level from year 8–10, which are designed to fit in with the curriculum and to be implemented over one school term. The modules are a mixture of online cartoons and classroom activities.
Registering your school in the program gives you access to all the course materials, as well as professional training webinars for staff about drug and mental health education. The cost of the program starts at $250 for a year, depending on how many students are in the school.
CLIMATE Schools brings together a lot of best-practice in drug education – it’s evidence-based, it fits in with the school curriculum and it focuses on wellbeing rather than using scare tactics. It has also been trialled and evaluated and participating schools can take part in ongoing research by UNSW to continue its development.
The ADF is promoting this program to drug action teams for a number of reasons, this includes:
CLIMATE Schools is not the only such program and this recommendation does not invalidate other programs that are firmly based on the guidelines, including SDERA in WA.
But if schools want assistance with drug education, the CLIMATE program is a good option given it offers schools a comprehensive program including advice for teachers, support for parents and that it can be accessed remotely.