Community information about drug education

All members of the school community have a responsibility for educating students about drug use, protective strategies and building skills to make effective decisions now and in the future.

The mandatory PDHPE K–10 Syllabus,and Life Ready course for students in Year 11 and/or Year 12 provide:

  • 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, e-cigarettes, alcohol and cannabis.

Use Drug education in NSW government schools fact sheet 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

Students learn:

  • 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

Students learn:

  • 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..

Addressing vaping in schools

Tobacco products, including vapes and e-cigarettes, are prohibited on school grounds, during any school-based activities and on transport to and from school. Whilst the impact on schools is of growing concern, vaping is a community-wide issue, which is not for schools to solve alone.

NSW held the first Roundtable on Vaping in Schools on Thursday 16 November, where it heard from students, teachers, principals and evidence from health experts and researchers about vaping behaviour and how it is affecting young people. Further work is underway to develop resources to better support and inform students, teachers, and principals in managing this issue in our schools. This work will complement and enhance the ongoing efforts of NSW Health to increase the awareness of the dangers of vaping in the wider community.

These actions are listed below as part of the department’s Prevention and support framework – e-cigarette use (vaping).

Action 1

Create and promote a guide to supporting student health and wellbeing in relation to e-cigarettes (vapes) in schools.

This guide will support principals and other staff to:

  • manage e-cigarette related incidents
  • support students involved in e-cigarette use.

Action 2

Inform reviews of curriculum and curriculum resources, including the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) K-10 Syllabus and Life Ready course.

2.1 Review the Life Ready course content and resources to embed learning about e-cigarettes, their harm, the impact (mental health, burn, head spin, poison), signs of addiction and how to seek help/ support others to seek help.

2.2 Advise NESA of the vaping-related content as part of new syllabus development. Provide feedback through the ‘Have your say’ consultation processes.

2.3 Align learning in Years K–12 to the NSW Health vaping campaign for consistent messaging.

Action 3

Resource and upskill teachers to deliver age-appropriate, evidence-based drug education reflective of effective pedagogies.

3.1 Establish a process of student voice and co-design for curriculum materials.

3.2a Create and publish quality-assured, curriculum-aligned resources for school staff to support learning for K–6 students. Focus on the facts about e-cigarettes and e-cigarette harm. Promote these resources with teachers and parents and carers for consistent messaging.

3.2b Recommend external quality-assured and evidence-based resources that focus on the harmful effects of e-cigarette use (vaping).

3.3 Provide secondary school teachers with resources which employ evidence-based interactive teaching strategies which develop and apply skills in a range of e-cigarette or vape-related situations.

3.4 Investigate peer-led education sessions and education programs for Years 7–12.

Action 4

Build education sector capacity through professional learning to deliver drug education curriculum within a school culture that promotes health and wellbeing.

4.1 Publish professional learning on:

  • addressing vaping through curriculum K-6 and 7-12
  • vaping and young people – the research base and key messages for staff developing curriculum, health or wellbeing initiatives, programs or interventions.
  • supporting students involved in e-cigarette use, specifically to quit use and access support.

4.2 Deliver a live webinar for school leaders in partnership with NSW Health focused on vaping laws, harmful impact (mental health, burn, head spin, poison), signs of addiction, policy, resources and how to support students to seek help to quit vaping.

4.3 Integrate messaging on prevention, reduction and management of student e-cigarette use into professional learning on wellbeing, health, child protection and student safety.

Action 5

Review the Drugs in Schools policy and procedures.

5.1 Align to other relevant policies for streamlined processes and practice.

5.2 Provide support and resources for school leaders to understand and apply reviewed policy and procedures to manage e-cigarette related incidents and provide post incident support.

Action 6

Develop a suite of parent/carer resources in collaboration with NSW Health.

6.1 Provide schools with regular communications for their school community related to e-cigarette harms, laws, impact (mental health, burn, head spin, poison), signs of addiction and how to support their child to seek help. Resources should include newsletters and fact sheets with translations, video content and social media posts/ material.

6.2 Deliver a live webinar for parents and carers focused on laws, impact (mental health, burn, head spin, poison), signs of addiction and how to support their child to seek help. Promote through school communities and the NSW Parents & Citizens (P & C) Federation.

Action 7

Prioritise and promote wellbeing and student support programs to address the underlying causes of the decisions of young people to vape. For example, anxiety, mental health concerns, family influence, access. These programs and interventions should acknowledge the complexity of student background.

7.1 Upskill staff in health and wellbeing roles on e-cigarette harms, laws, impact (mental health, burn, head spin, poison), signs of addiction and how to seek help/ support their child to seek help.

7.2 Develop and implement interventions for at-risk students.

7.3 Identify and promote the clear pathways for department support to schools in relation to e-cigarette use, including the role of the Wellbeing and Health In-reach Nurse (WHIN), Student Support Officers (SSOs) and Delivery Support.

7.4 Investigate, develop and promote the use of new approaches with students who use e-cigarettes. Support schools to manage student behaviour with a focus on health, wellbeing and continued education.

Action 8

The department to access and review local prevalence data for e-cigarette use in young people in schools and monitor needs and priorities. Support schools to determine relevant and culturally appropriate drug education for their students.

Action 9

Build and promote relationships between schools and external agencies, community services and referral pathways.

  • Identify clear pathways for support outside the school.
  • Increase access to support systems for students who show signs of addiction.

Action 10

Work with NSW Health to continue and extend the Wellbeing and Health In-reach Nurse program, and investigate their role in supporting students to quit vaping.

Action 11

Review the Education Facilities for Schools Guidelines (EFSG) with Schools Infrastructure so that single cubicle toilets are incorporated into school design.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
Return to top of page Back to top