The Department of Education is firmly committed to tackling the increasing problem of the availability and use of illegal drugs.

Drugs in schools

Schools have a key role to play in ensuring that young people understand the risks involved and have the confidence, knowledge and skills to avoid them. They have a major contribution to make in discouraging drug misuse, encouraging positive attitudes and self-esteem, and promoting healthy lifestyles.  Schools alone cannot, of course, solve the problem of drug misuse in society, but the implementation of an effective programme of drug education in all schools is an essential step in tackling it.

It is a statutory requirement for every grant-aided school to have in place a drugs education policy.

Drugs education is provided in the curriculum which is taught to all pupils of compulsory school age in grant-aided schools.  In primary schools, pupils have opportunities to learn about keeping themselves healthy and safe through the Personal Health element of the Personal Development and Mutual Understanding area of learning.

In post-primary schools, pupils have opportunities to learn how to look after their health and well-being, keep safe and cope with their environment, and explore the risks and consequences of the misuse of drugs through the Personal Development element of the Learning for Life and Work area of learning.

CCEA guidance - Drugs: guidance for schools in Northern Ireland - revised edition 2015

The Department of Education commissioned the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to produce updated drugs guidance for schools. The updated guidance is aligned to the current statutory curriculum in place in Northern Ireland schools and takes account of changes in legislation relating to drugs since the previous guidance was published in 2004.

The guidance has been designed to assist schools in the development, implementation, evaluation, and review of their drugs policy and to support procedures for the management of suspected drug-related incidents and issues.

The guidance includes an exemplar drugs policy template and a checklist in relation to roles and responsibilities. Advice is also provided on the signs of substance use to look out for and the action that needs to be taken if substance use is suspected.

The circular below advises school authorities about revised drugs guidance produced by CCEA on behalf of the Department of Education.

Circular 2015/23 - Drugs Guidance 

The guidance can be accessed on the CCEA website 

The former Education Minister wrote to all grant-aided schools on 2 June 2010 reminding them about their responsibilities in relation to the prevention of drugs misuse (through drugs education programmes) and the protection of young people (through each school's drugs education policy).  You can view the former Minister's letter below.

New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2

Drugs and alcohol policy sits within the remit of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS).  In 2005 DHSSPS led the development of a cross-sectoral strategy that sought to reduce the harm related to both alcohol and drug misuse here.  The Department of Education was represented on the steering group formed to develop the strategy.  DHSSPS launched this strategy, entitled the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs (NSD), in 2006.
Originally, the NSD had a five-year life span.  However, in 2011, the existing NSD was reviewed, revised, and extended until 2016.  The final document was approved by the NI Executive in December 2011 and launched by the Health Minister on 26 January 2012.  The NSD Phase 2 document is available online at:

More useful links

Back to top