Effective drug education

School education is about preparing young people for healthy, fulfilling adult lives. Providing comprehensive drug education supports this.

The Principles of school drug education (under review) provide a framework of core concepts and values to support effective drug education practice within schools. They are intended to guide school executive, teachers and staff, as well as families, community agencies and other stakeholders, in making decisions related to drug education practice within school communities.

Effective drug education assists students to:

  • acquire knowledge and understanding of the complex issues involved in drug use, including up-to-date information about drugs and their effects
  • critically examine the influences on drug use, including societal attitudes, peers, media and social media
  • practise and evaluate a range of interpersonal and self management skills, including assertive communication, refusal skills, decision making, problem-solving, recognising emotion and seeking further information or help from relevant support and information services
  • develop attitudes and values that promote healthy and safe lives.

For drug education to be effective it must be:

  • designed to increase student’s knowledge, understanding and skills to make healthy and safe choices
  • relevant to all students' experiences and interests
  • focused on significant coverage of relevant issues
  • sensitive to the broad continuum of student experience
  • highly interactive and engage students in problem-solving and critical thinking
  • delivered before initial experimentation and continue as young people mature
  • considerate and reflective of the diverse components of identity, including gender, culture, language, socio-economic status and developmental stage
  • based on the principles of harm minimisation
  • part of a whole school approach to health promotion, prevention and early intervention to student wellbeing and engagement.

A safe and supportive school environment is protective for children and 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.

Effective pedagogy

Effective pedagogy in drug education is centred around basic principles of teaching, learning and assessment. A number of strategies can be used to create a supportive learning environment enabling students to feel safe to learn and ask questions.

Be clear about the purpose of drug education lessons and the key messages you want students to take away from each lesson. Communicate this with students through learning intentions and goals. When students see the relevance of learning, they are more able to connect with education and are more likely to engage with it.

Think critically and plan lessons so that students have a takeaway message. The purpose of a lesson should not always be solely about knowledge of content but rather, students should practise and develop skills that will allow them to participate as a positive member of the community. Skill development in a range of drugs related situations which students may be exposed to in their lifetime is important to allow for practise, evaluation and refinement of each self-management or interpersonal skill.

All schools in NSW are required to teach courses of study in accordance with the outcomes of syllabuses developed by NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). Some aspects of PDHPE may be viewed as sensitive or controversial, such as learning about drugs, respectful relationships and violence. It is essential that principals maintain communication with parents and carers on teaching and learning programs, visiting speakers, external providers and other school activities, including student-organised activities, in which controversial issues may be addressed.

A range of teaching strategies which promote active participation and interactive or hands on learning approaches are most effective when teaching PDHPE.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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