Skip to main content


To ask the Minister for Education and Science if he has examined the possibility of introducing drug and alcohol awareness education programmes in primary and post primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – David Stanton.

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th July, 2008. Reference Number: 28944/08


Minister for Education and Science (Batt O’Keeffe, T.D.)

Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) forms a mandatory part of curriculum provision in primary schools and in junior cycle. The overall aim is to help develop students’ confidence and self esteem, and promote the skills for living, for responsible decision making, and for mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing. The junior cycle syllabus for SPHE includes a specific module on Substance Abuse.

The implementation of these programmes in schools is supported by full-time support services at primary and second level which provide professional development for teachers and advice and support to schools. The second level support service is operated jointly with the Health Sector. A range of resources are available to support the programmes. These include the Walk Tall Programme at primary level, On My Own Two Feet at post- primary level, the Teacher Guidelines for SPHE developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, a Substance Misuse Prevention Information Booklet for schools and parents, Guidelines for Developing a School Substance Use Policy, including a policy template, and links and references to relevant websites.

The SPHE Support Service also provides support and assistance to schools in the development of their Substance Use policies, and offers a resource directory, which includes the materials of the Teaching Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs Education in England. Copies of these materials were made available to the network of Education Centres around the country by the support service.

A senior cycle programme in Social Personal and Health Education is being developed by the NCCA. A draft curriculum framework has been published, and consultations have been completed on it. I look forward to receiving the recommendations of the Council on the matter at an early date. Substance Use will be one of the five areas of study planned for the programme.

In addition to this, the Transition Year Programme, which is available to schools on an optional basis provides a flexible menu of options designed to further support pupils’ personal and social development, to provide a bridge between junior and senior cycle and to offer a broad educational experience which can aid the maturing process. As part of this, there is scope for schools to offer alcohol and substance misuse programmes.

While education has a role to play in addressing the problem of alcohol misuse, behavioural change will not happen without the support and co-operation of parents, the drinks industry and society as a whole. Parents have a responsibility to help children and young people to adopt sensible and responsible attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol.