The cocktail of students, drugs and alcohol can seriously
impair a school's effectiveness and principals say they can't
solve the problem on their own.
It's often hard for teachers to identify whether a student's
problems are due to drugs or alcohol because they don't know
what the kids get up to at weekends, principal Gail Armstrong
A new report from the Australian National Council on Drugs
says schools need more support from governments and
communities to tackle the problem.
The council surveyed more than 200 secondary school
principals about difficulties for students and what drug and
alcohol education is offered.
Alcohol and drug use were nominated as the third and fifth
most difficult problems for schools to deal with - along with
mental health and bullying both on- and offline.
There was a big disruptive impact from things that happened
outside the school, like weekend partying.
Ms Armstrong, principal of Alexandra Hills State High School
near Brisbane, said it was a hidden problem.
"A child might be particularly lethargic or unmotivated on
Monday or looking as if they've got a bit of a headache," she
"We don't know that that's because they've been partying or
binge drinking on the weekend."
But it was a big concern.
"Instead of getting out and playing sport or relaxing or
studying, they're either preparing for drinking or they're
drinking or they're getting over it," Ms Armstrong said.
"It puts a big hole in their week in terms of the impact it
would have on them if that's what they're doing."
A majority of principals told the ANCD if schools were
expected to take more responsibility for addressing these
issues then it was critical to have more trained personnel
and funding available.
"Schools need a far greater level of support from
governments, communities and the drug and alcohol sector,"
council chairman John Herron said.
The council says governments need to improve access to
funding for intervention and education.
Existing programs should be reviewed to see how effective
Parental attitudes, such as supplying alcohol for parties or
turning a blind eye to drinking, also need addressing.