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With the scourge of ‘legal highs’ and party drugs threatening the wellbeing and even lives of young people in the UK, two leading young people’s charities, the Angelus Foundation and The Amy Winehouse Foundation, are uniting to petition the government to make effective drugs education a compulsory subject on the National Curriculum.
In its current curriculum review, the coalition government has abandoned a bill to make the PSHE curriculum compulsory. This will mean that drugs education is not mandatory and schools can choose how much time they allocate to this critical subject, or if they teach it at all.
To urge the government to put compulsory drug education for all children on the National Curriculum the two charities, both dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of legal highs and club drugs, have launched a campaign calling on parents and the government to Wise Up! The campaign includes a petition on the Number 10 website and a nationwide survey of parents of young people.
The aim of the launch of this Wise Up! Campaign is to alert parents to the increasing dangers their children face by not being aware of the potential dangers of taking drugs, be they ‘legal’ highs, club drugs, or excessive alcohol.
Over 60 per cent of schools spend less than one hour per year on drug education. And as there is no curriculum, it can be delivered by a wide range of people, including police officers, recovering addicts, school nurses, or one of the teachers, all of whom have the best of intentions. Worryingly, research shows that poorly taught drugs education can actually increase the use of drugs amongst teenagers.
The main issue is that without training and a curriculum the messages young people receive about the dangers of drugs and alcohol will by default vary enormously.
Speaking about the impact of well delivered drugs education in reducing harm, The Angelus Foundation founder Maryon Stewart said: “Effective interventions shown to reduce the use of drugs and alcohol by in excess of 50% have been peer reviewed and published in medical journals and are currently being delivered in schools in both Canada and Australia.
To provide drug education to a child costs GBP500 but, according to surveys, the cost per drug-using child is in the region of GBP1M by the time they are 30. Providing effective drugs education would save billions of pounds. I urge all parents to sign the Wise Up! petition and urge the Government to put drugs education on the National Curriculum so that our children can make wise and informed choices, increasing their chances of staying safe.”
Mitch Winehouse added: “The Amy Winehouse Foundation was appalled to discover that drugs education was not being taught in British schools and we are delighted to join forces with the Angelus Foundation to petition the government to make it a core curriculum subject, and to lobby for a separate Drugs Ministry so that we can try to reduce the numbers of deaths from drugs and alcohol, as in France where such a Ministry exists.
We need all the parents in this country to sign this petition to show the government that they have a duty to help the younger generation understand the dangers of drink and drugs.”
The petition can be found at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/30280
Attending the launch event of the Wise Up! campaign on 5th March at the Houses of Parliament will be the Duchess of Kent, who is the Patron of Angelus; Angelus Founder Maryon Stewart, who lost her 21 year-old daughter, Hester, to a mixture of alcohol and GBL; Angelus Trustee Vicky Unwin, who lost her 21 year-old daughter, Louise, to a ketamine overdose;
Mitch Winehouse, whose daughter Amy died in 2011; musician and composer James McConnel and Country Life Cartoonist Annie Tempest, whose 18 year old son, Freddy, who had been a heavy user of Mephedrone and eventually died from a heroin overdose.
Actors Cherie Lunghi, an Angelus Ambassador, and Felicity Kendall, a family friend, will be adding their support; TV presenter and stand-up comic Jeff Leach, Tim Arnold (The Soho Hobo), who is releasing a single in Louise’s memory, and Zachery Stevenson of the band Special Needs, and who is organizing a tribute concert in aid of Angelus on 7 March, will represent the younger perspective at the event.
Many MPs and members of the House of Lords are expected to attend.