Conference Papers

Enhancing the curriculum: The place of drugs awareness in education studies

This paper aims to explore the place that ‘drugs awareness and substance misuse’ workshops have within an Education Studies programme as a way of enhancing curriculum content. Health and wellbeing education is high on the political agenda for the policy makers in England, Scotland and Wales as a way to reduce underachievement in excluded groups including substance misuse (DfES, 2013; Education Scotland, 2013; DfE, 2013). Although not a discrete ‘subject’ in any school curriculum it has been acknowledged that pupils taking drugs are more likely to truant and engage with criminal activities which in turn impacts upon academic achievement and life chances (Ward & Williams, 2014; Johnston
et al, 2011). Issues of underachievement have been a preoccupation with a range of Education Minster in recent years and a range of interventions have been proposed (Walker & Donaldson, 2010).

One of the questions raised in this paper is whether such content should be included within an Education Studies degree at all. Certainly, although not explicitly cited within the benchmarking document, there is implicit reference to ‘a framework for understanding some aspects of human and social development’ within a ‘diverse range of groups within educational settings’ including ‘health/social care environments’ as well as more formal curriculum delivery (QAA, 2007, pp. 2-3). The delivery of such subjects can be highly emotive and ethically challenging for educators and students alike. Beyond the ethical issues there are also pedagogical challenges of designing content and how to position such workshops within individual modules. Questions need to be asked regarding whether these workshops actually enhance the curriculum or are it just another ‘fashionable’ addition to a theoretically and politically grounded degree. There will also be a consideration of ‘how’ or ‘whether’ students actually use this knowledge in their future careers. Some would suggest that the inclusion of drug awareness and substance misuse workshops merely reflects the post-modern world in which we live where change and risk is endemic for individuals and communities. The key conclusions from this paper are that such workshops do not ‘easily fit into the ‘traditional Education Studies curriculum’, although they are implicit in the current benchmarking document. A final question is whether drugs awareness should be the responsibility of educationalists or left to professionals, such as youth and health workers, who have specific training in this area (Walker & Donaldson, 2010).


QAA (2007) Education Studies, Mansfield, Nottingham: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Education Scotland (2013) Health and wellbeing: The Responsibility of All 3-18, Livingstone, Education Scotland.

DfES (2013) Guidance for Substance Misuse Education, Cardiff, Welsh Government: Pupil Wellbeing Branch.

DfE (2013) Statutory guidance: National curriculum in England: framework for key stages 1 to 4, London: DfE.

Johnston, LD, O’Malley, PM, Bachman, JG, Schulenberg, JE (2010) Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2010 – Volume I – Secondary School Students, Ann Arbour, MI: The University of Michigan –  Institute for Social Research  and The National Institute of Drug Abuse National Institutes for Health

Walker J & Donaldson C (2010) Intervening to Improve Outcomes for Vulnerable Young People: A review of Evidence, Newcastle: Newcastle University.

Lohmann-Hancock, C. (2014) 'Enhancing the curriculum: The place of drugs awareness in education studies', paper presented to The 10th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 26–27 June, viewed 09 August 2020, <>