Sluggish grades linked to drug, alcohol abuse

A RETIRED Tamworth deputy principal has spoken out about an alarming new report linking rampant alcohol and drug use to sluggish academic results.

Ex-Tamworth High School second-in-charge Ken Hall said the problem was apparent before he retired 10 years ago and he was unsurprised the complex situation had deepened.

He said increased availability and affluence as well as a shift in “social mores” all contributed to the spike. 

“You’d be burying your head in the sand if you didn’t think there were plenty of drugs in Tamworth available to anyone who has the money,” Mr Hall said.

“Back in my day, we used to think we were pretty brave if we drank beer, let alone bourbon and coke.

“But for many younger kids now, if it’s not hard spirits, they don’t think it’s worthwhile even drinking.”

The survey of 200 secondary school principals, released by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) earlier this month, found the use of alcohol had significant and negative impacts on students’ academic performance as well as their general wellbeing and behaviour.

This is despite alcohol consumption nearly always occurring away from school.

Principals nominated alcohol as the main concern and said unsupervised parties and binge-drinking on weekends were having subsequent detrimental impacts on students and the school environment generally.

It also showed teachers spent “significant amounts of time” trying to help students experiencing drug- and alcohol-related problems catch up on their work.

While 75 per cent of schools surveyed had alcohol and drug policies/programs in place, Mr Hall said it was obvious more needed to be done to tackle the problem.

He backed calls for specialist staff or trained personnel to better support students and allow teachers to get on with their jobs, but suggested allied services needed to open up the lines of communication to foster success.

“Get all your agencies working co-operatively together and by doing so the gain you’ll get is bigger than an individual group can get," he said.

The ANCD says schools need a far greater level of support from governments, communities and the drug and alcohol sector.

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