Education vital in curbing school drug and alcohol use

A NORTHERN Rivers principal says schools need to constantly reassess the way they tackle drug and alcohol use and abuse by students following a National Council on Drugs report.

Alstonville High School principal David Silcock says local high schools need to work with parents to educate teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol use on adolescent minds and bodies.

"From our point of view, drug and alcohol use is something that can go in cycles with groups and individuals," he said.

"Obviously drug and alcohol use can impact their general wellbeing and sometimes it can get to a significant point.

"It's about working with the students, their families and the community to address the issue through education and setting proper boundaries."

Alstonville High School Principal David Silcock. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star
Alstonville High School Principal David Silcock. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

"About five years ago we made no secret we were concerned about these things," he said.

"My view is that kids are now more aware of the consequences and they seem to be more responsible.

"We've got a pretty good education policy relating to the issue, as most schools in the area do."

Mr Silcock said mental health concerns in students were seemingly growing, but he couldn't pinpoint whether alcohol or drug use was a cause or a result.

"It's hard to say whether it's caused by drug use in most cases ... or whether they're self-medicating an existing mental health issue," he said.

Mr Silcock said his school would continue to work hard to keep kids out of trouble and engaged in education.

Organiser: funding would help

NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Marty Wheatley says schools are doing the best they can to tackle the issue with limited funding.

"I think issues across NSW schools, and all states, stem from a societal issue with drugs," he said.

"Schools always manage to do plenty with not enough, but teachers are not drug and alcohol counsellors.

"Continual funding from Gonski (education review reforms) would help facilitate more assistance, especially within the fifth and sixth years, which are currently not funded."

Mr Wheatley, who is based in Lismore, emphasised that it was important not to use a "small number of incidents as a visage of what a school is like".


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