It comes as a surprise to many parents when their child first starts spouting information they’ve learnt about drugs and alcohol at school that day over the dinner table. To hear such adult topics being discussed by such tiny mouths while they’re shovelling in their pasta can come as quite an eye-opener.
But the fact is, experts feel that drug and alcohol education need to start early in our children so that they can make informed decisions about their personal safety as they grow up.
It’s for this reason that all schools in all Australian states and territories now have the Australian Curriculum for Health and Physical Education (HPE) available for their use. It’s safe to say that very soon, what a child in Victoria will be learning will be the same as a child of the same age and at the same stage of primary schooling in NSW. How an individual school implements this overarching curriculum is up to them but the outcomes of the teaching (in other words, what the child ends up understanding) have to be the same.
The Australian Curriculum for HPE helps students ‘develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to make healthy and safe decisions in relation to drug and alcohol use’. Here’s a breakdown of what this translates to for each year and stage of primary education.
Early stage 1
At this young age, children learn about drugs in the form of medicines and how they can best keep themselves safe around them. This will most likely involve class discussion and worksheets.
Students will learn about:
Years 1 and 2 reiterate the topics covered in Kindy/Prep and helps children identify poison labels, medicine packaging and understand the need to ask an adult before taking medicines. Again, students will learn through class discussion and worksheets as well as role playing.
This stage also covers:
By now, children are being taught how to describe, and put into action, plans that can be used if they find themselves in a situation involving drugs and drug use that make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Individual projects may be introduced to the children’s learning about drugs and alcohol now, although class discussion and worksheets around the topic will still be the mainstay of their education.
This means they will learn:
For the last two years of their primary schooling, the emphasis on drug and alcohol education is ‘keeping myself safe around drugs’. This could include acting out storylines that the students themselves have written about refusing drugs that are offered, including medications, tobacco and alcohol.
This will include learning about: