The issue of alcohol harm is addressed in the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme. As students’ progress through an SPHE programme, they will encounter a wide range of issues. These include substance misuse. Schools have a role to play in supporting their students to develop the key skills and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices when faced with a range of difficult issues, including drugs, alcohol and gambling.
This is mainly done through the SPHE programme, which has a specific module on the use and misuse of a range of substances. SPHE is currently mandatory in all primary schools and in junior cycle. It also forms part of the mandatory 'Wellbeing' area of learning for the new junior cycle which was introduced in September 2017. Schools are also encouraged to deliver the SPHE programme in senior cycle.
Relevant topics in SPHE include student decision-making skills and safety and protection. Students learn how to exercise judgement, weigh up different possibilities, examine the steps and choices that guide them towards considered decision-making, begin to understand their own rights and the rights of others, and explore decision-making. In respect of safety, students’ ability to assess the consequences of risky behaviour is developed.
The SPHE curriculum is currently being redeveloped across all levels. A draft revised Junior Cycle specification has recently been approved by NCCA Council, with a public consultation to follow, running from July to October. It is expected that the finalised specification will be presented to Council for approval early 2023, and subject to my approval, will be implemented in schools in September 2023.
Work in preparing a background paper that will inform the updating of senior cycle SPHE/RSE is underway. This paper will be finalised and presented to Council for approval for consultation in September 2022. It is intended that the curriculum redevelopment work will commence in September 2022 and a draft updated specification for senior cycle SPHE will be ready for public consultation by summer 2023 and finalised in early 2024 for implementation in schools in September 2024.
Following publication of the Primary Curriculum Framework, expected in early 2023, the NCCA will establish a development group which is due to commence development on updated primary specifications in Quarter 4 2022, with a draft estimated to be available for public consultation in Quarter 1 2024.