- age appropriate drug education
- the evidence based guidance for age appropriate content
- a focus on the drugs to which young people are most likely to be exposed to. This includes medications, tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.
Use the Drug education in NSW government schools fact sheet (PDF 289KB) to inform members of the school community.
Drug education research and rationale
Drug education should begin before children and young people are likely to face situations when they are exposed to drugs or in drug related situations, required to make decisions about drug use and before behavioural patterns have become established.
The potential for drug related harm to affect young people, along with other health and social issues is influenced by a range of factors that occur in the many different domains of their lives, including the community, family and school.
Young people who have begun to use drugs need safety messages about risks and how to reduce risks, including how to reduce or stop use.
Research literature shows that young people’s attachment and connection to others impacts their health and academic achievement. The quality of relationships and the social environment young people are exposed to can influence a range of behaviours including drug use.
A safe and supportive school environment can be protective for young people against a range of health related risks, including substance use problems. A positive climate within and beyond the classroom fosters learning, resilience and wellbeing in students and staff.
Drug education in NSW government schools reflects the whole of government harm minimisation approach. It aims to promote resilience, and build on knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours to enable young people to make responsible, healthy and safe choices.
Drug education in NSW government schools
Stage based content within NSW PDHPE K–6 and 7–10 syllabuses and Life Ready course allows teachers flexibility to deliver content at a time that meets the student needs, based on maturity, local context and learning progression.
Kindergarten to Year 2
- about medicines and the need to use them properly under the supervision of an adult
- that medicines and poisons must be stored out of reach of children
- how to contact emergency services if there is an accident at home.
Years 3 to 6
- about legal and illegal drugs – how they affect the body and how they can be helpful and harmful
- the effects of tobacco on the body and ways to avoid passive smoking
- about the effects of alcohol on the body.
Years 7 to 10
- learn about the physical, legal and social consequences of drug use and misuse
- analyse influences and reasons why people choose to use or not use drugs
- examine the risks associated with drug use and misuse
- recognise potentially risky situations and plan ways to reduce harm
- analyse the influence of the media, especially strategies aimed at young people
- identify support agencies.
Years 11 and 12
Through Life Ready, students in Year 11 and/or 12:
- learn about responsible behaviour and protective strategies in drug and alcohol related situations
- identify solutions and respond to situations which involve the use of drugs and alcohol
- explore and practice how to seek help for self and others
- identify and plan how to travel safely in alcohol and drug related situations
- practise help seeking strategies, including recognising an emergency situation, calling for help and first aid in drug and alcohol related situations.
The drug and alcohol education components of the NSW PDHPE K-6 and Year 7-10 syllabuses and Life Ready course are integrated with learning about risk, harm minimisation, influences on decision making and assessing information.
School based programs are most effective when designed for students to learn key skills to make positive decisions, communicate effectively and express own thoughts and needs, identify solutions and respond to situations which involve the use of drugs and alcohol, seek help for self and others and travel safely in alcohol and drug related situations.
Resources for parents and carers
There are a number of external websites available to parents and carers who want more information on drug education.
Drug education: parent booklet – positive choices is part of a series developed for teachers, parents and students. The Parent booklet provides:
- accurate evidence-based information about illegal drugs, their use and effects
- guidance about how to talk to a young person about illegal drugs, and ways that parents can protect against drug use and related harms
- information about how to help someone who has taken an illegal drug.
Australian government – Drugs facts & information for parents: translated from the National drugs campaign site provides drug information to help young people and parents understand the harmful effects and consequences of drug use. These fact sheets contain tips for talking with children about drugs and are available in several languages.
Educating kids about alcohol is a collection of fact sheets from the NSW Department of Education to support parents and carers to communicate with their children about alcohol.
Positive choices parent portal is a collection of resources to guide parents and carers on accurate drug information, how to protect against drug use and related harms and videos to guide parent and carer discussions with their children.
The other talk – Let’s talk about alcohol and drugs is the Australian drug foundation website. It provides resources to support Australian families to talk openly about alcohol and other drugs and is an important step when preparing your child for a teenage party.