Amy Winehouse's Death Prompts Compulsory Drug Education In Schools Campaign

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Amy Winehouse's Death Prompts Compulsory Drug Education In Schools Campaign
Amy Winehouse's Death Prompts Compulsory Drug Education In Schools Campaign

The death of Amy Winehouse has prompted a campaign to make drug education in schools compulsory.

The pop star "might still be alive" if she had been educated about drugs, her father Mitch said on the eve of attending the launch the campaign, supported by the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

An e-petition calling for effective drugs education to be part of the National Curriculum has been added to the government's website.

The campaign wants approved drugs education and a separate drugs department, similar to that in France.

The petition, which will be launched in the House of Commons tonight, has been created by Maryon Stewart and Vicky Unwin, who both lost daughters as a result of drug use. Both are senior figures in the Angelus Foundation - which campaigns to highlight the dangers of "legal highs", including alcohol. E-petitions can be considered for debate in Parliament if they get more than 100,000 signatures.

The petition says many legal highs and so-called club drugs are widely consumed by young people who regard them as safe because many are legal.

Winehouse, 61, said: "We'll save hundreds of thousands of kids if we can do this.

"It's a disgrace that our children don't have drug education. It's preposterous."

He added: "We'll be saving future generations from a life of hell."

Winehouse recently visited a rehabilitation clinic where a former addict spoke about the consequences of drugs with people currently battling the problem.

He believes that this method of educating youngsters can be effective and claimed that Amy, and the daughters of Stewart and Unwin, might still be alive if they had attended similar sessions.

He said: "I wish that my daughter had had that kind of drug education when she was in her formative years.

"I think that had they had that education there's a good chance that all three of them would still be here today."

Amy Winehouse was found dead in bed in her Camden flat in north London in July last year.

The singer battled with a drink and drugs problem during her life prompting her father to set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation to help vulnerable youngsters in her memory.

Meanwhile, writing in the Observer yesterday, Unwin, whose daughter after taking ketamine said: "On Wednesday March 2, 2011, our lives changed for ever.

"Our beloved 21-year-old daughter, Louise, who had everything to live for, drowned in her bath after taking an unintentional overdose of ketamine. She was not a regular drug user; she was a gregarious, popular, fun-loving girl who... achieved more in her 21 years than most of us do in a lifetime.

"When Louise died, I knew immediately that she would want me to stop others from losing their lives in such a stupid and pointless way. I owed it to her memory and I knew that she would live on through my actions."

Unwin said she took steps to raise awareness, posting messages on Facebook about her daughter's death, urging her friends to repost it on social networks and start a viral campaign.

Press coverage followed and as a result of one article she was contacted by Stewart, who set up the Angelus Foundation after her 21-year-old daughter Hester died from a combination of a small amount of alcohol and a half-dose of GBL, a legal high.

The foundation has campaigned on the issues surrounding legal highs.

In her Observer column, Unwin said: "In the autumn we made a breath-taking discovery: that the coalition government, in its recent curriculum review, had abandoned Labour's bill to make the PSHE (personal, social and health education) curriculum compulsory, including drug education.

"This means that every school can decide how much curriculum time it wants to devote to drug education (for more than 60% of schools that means one hour or less a year), what the curriculum is (one recent study found that 70% of pupils couldn't recall any drug education in their secondary school), and who delivers it (it might be the PE teacher, the school nurse, and often it is a police officer or an ex-user who does an assembly).

"Most important, schools will not be measured on whether what they teach is successful or not. Research shows that drug education, poorly taught, can increase the use of drugs.

"So we decided to team up with the Amy Winehouse Foundation to launch a parents' petition to lobby government to make drug education part of the national curriculum. This campaign is being launched at the House of Commons on Monday."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "All pupils should have high quality lessons to deal with the dangers of drug abuse. Schools have a legal responsibility to promote pupils' wellbeing - which should include setting out a clear drugs policy to prevent substance misuse.

"PSHE remains a compulsory part of the curriculum up to 16. Teachers know their pupils best and have the power to design their own lessons and decide what is taught. We are carrying out a detailed internal review to improve PSHE teaching and will set out next steps in due course.

"We published clear advice on drugs to schools last month setting out how they can address drug misuse - including giving accurate information through the FRANK campaign; working with charities and police to prevent it spreading; and providing pupils with clear information."

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