A CAMPAIGN to teach primary school pupils the dangers of drink and drugs marked its tenth anniversary with a party back where it all began.
A Life Education Wessex mobile classroom – born out of the County Gazette’s Stop It! anti-drugs campaign – returned last Thursday (January 30) to Bishop’s Hull Primary School, its very first destination back in January 2004.
Harold the Giraffe joined children and educators inside, where there is an interactive model of the human body, fibre optic lighting and a multi-media suite, for a slice of birthday cake.
Sessions in the classroom help children up to 11 learn life skills on self-esteem, drugs and alcohol, assertiveness and anti-bullying, positive friendships and being safe and healthy.
Helen Morrall, an educator with independent charity Life Education Wessex, said: “Children at Bishop’s Hull Primary School had the opportunity to take part in high impact, memorable activities that help them become better informed and more assertive about the health and well-being choices they make for the rest of their lives.
“The interactive nature of the sessions encourages every individual to become involved and the normative messages given help the children to understand that smoking, drinking alcohol and drug use are all minority activities among young people.”
David Montgomery, of Taunton Vale Rotary Club, which started the Somerset project along with Helen Foster of the Inner Wheel Club under the chairmanship of David Baker, said £120,000 was raised to get it started, including a £5,000 donation from the Gannet Foundation, the charitable arm of Gannet, owner of the national Newsquest Media Group, which owns the Gazette among many other newspapers, magazines and websites nationwide.
A second classroom was subsequently added by Life Education Wessex, which now also includes Dorset, Devon and Hampshire.
He said: “During the ten years since Life Education programmes were first delivered in Somerset, a number of developments have taken place.
“The educator team now work with pupils in secondary schools as well as those in the primary phase, leading workshops on smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs; run training sessions for school staff in behaviour and safety; have increased resources for use with pupils who have additional educational needs; and deliver programmes on relationships and sex education.”
Life Education Wessex receives no statutory funding and relies on fundraising for the local community to fund its vital work – for details or to request a visit call Jeanette McPhail on 01258-837417, e-mail Jeanette@lifeeducationwessex.org.uk or visit www.lifeeducationwessex.org.uk - click on the related link.
*YEAR 6 pupils at Bishop’s Hull undertook their fourth session in the mobile last Thursday.
Here’s what they think of the initiative: Alisha: “We’ve learned about drugs and people having choices. It’s been very useful.”
Jess: “It’s a really good thing for your education to learn a bit more about things you haven’t learned about in school.”
Will: “It’s good to watch some of the things that could be happening but you don’t really see.”
Jacob: “It was interesting to learn about the different kinds of drugs – either for medication of illegal drugs.”
Ben: “I enjoyed the sessions. You get to learn things a lot of people our age don’t know about. It helps you make choices when you’re older.”
Kieran: “I’m thankful for it and it will influence me. The TV and Harold the Giraffe make it all exciting.”
RESEARCH with local schoolchildren who have taken part in the Life Education programme shows:
- 90% of Key Stage 1 pupils knew more about keeping healthy, while 86% learned more about what to do when they feel angry or lonely;
- 90% of Key Stage 2 children said they understood more about the risks of smoking or drinking alcohol;
- 83% understood how others can influence the choices they make about smoking, alcohol and other drugs;
- 75% knew how their emotions and needs can change in different situations;
- and 72% knew how to be assertive with other people.
As well as building links with schools and teachers, Life Education Wessex engages with parents/carers and the wider community to promote personal, social and health education and ensure that the messages the children learn are backed up at home.