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June 14, 2018


A recent article published by The Conversation explores the potential of flexischools to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Flexischools are alternative education providers for young people who have been excluded from mainstream education, either formally through expulsion, or for those young people who simply don't fit in the mainstream schooling system. Recent estimates show that 35% of young people attending flexischools in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, which is a high representation considering that Indigenous students represented 5.6% of all school students in 2017.  Flexischools could present an opportunity for learning - how can we look at translating what is working well within flexi schools to mainstream schools to ensure all Indigenous young people receive an education?


Read "How flexischools could help close the gap in Indigenous education"

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April 6, 2018


Dr David Armstrong from Flinders University has recently published an article on The Conversation website titled "Why suspending or expelling students often does more harm than good." Research over the years has shown that young people who are suspended or excluded from school tend to be further disadvantaged and more at risk of engaging in substance use, become involved in criminal activity or develop mental health concerns. This article explores how our school system accommodates disadvantaged students and how we can best respond.

Go to "Why suspending or expelling students often does more harm than good"

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February 23, 2018


Schools are occasionally involved in alcohol and drug related incidents, for example when a student presents or becomes intoxicated on school grounds. Once the immediate risks have been managed and classes resume, it can be difficult to know how to appropriately support the school community. We receive many calls at Dovetail about this topic, so we thought it would be handy to summarise the advice that we regularly provide to schools around Queensland.


  • Don't wait for an incident to occur to come up with a response - develop a plan in advance as a part of a  "whole school approach" which aligns your school's alcohol and other drug policies and procedures
  • Make sure that your school uses evidence-based alcohol and other drug education embedded within the curriculum, delivered by the regular classroom teacher, sequentially over the year levels
  • Avoid one-off presentations that don't link with the curriculum or build upon the students' existing knowledge and skills
  • Avoid unintentionally giving information on how to obtain or use substances where young people do not already have this information
  • Steer clear of fear-based approaches and "shock" tactics, and approaches that rely on lecturing students.  These types of approaches have been proven ineffective
  • Don't present alcohol and other drug education in a way that normalises substance using behaviours, or results in young people believing that substance use is more common than it really is
  • Consider how to manage interest from the media in any alcohol and drug related incident. This should be addressed in your school's alcohol and other drug policy and procedures.

For information on effective school alcohol and other drug education programs and resources check out Positive Choices or give us a call on (07) 3837 5621

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November 24, 2017


The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has published a paper titled "Drug testing in schools."  The paper considers the research into random drug testing of school students, to consider whether it is an effective deterrent, or whether it has unintended consequences.  The authors located seven studies all conducted in the united States, among students aged between 13 and 19 years.  The authors found that drug testing school students had little or no effect on actual rates of drug use among those tested and their peer group.  The paper found that student drug testing was associated with increased use of illicit drugs other than cannabis.

Go to "Drug Testing in Schools"

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July 28, 2017


Caffeine Informer is a useful website that provides information about caffeine and the amount contained in a wide range of products such as energy drinks, coffee and other caffeinated goods. Caffeine is a popular stimulant, often used to kick start the day, and when used in moderation can have some positive benefits. However, when caffeine is used regularly in large quantities users can experience some unpleasant side effects. Caffeine Informer has information about safe limits, a caffeine intake calculator and an overdose calculator which can help determine how many milligrams of caffeine a day is being consumed.

Check out the website here

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March 17, 2017


Headspace School Support is a suicide postvention program. The program has been developed to support Australian school communities to be prepared for, respond to and recover from the death of a student by suicide. There is a toolkit with a useful checklist for schools that provides a snapshot of the immediate and longer term tasks required for the successful management of this difficult situation. There is also a range of fact sheets with information around suicide attempts, responding to media, memorials and events and information for communities as these events have an emotional effect on the whole community not just the school community.

You can read more and download the toolkit and factsheets here

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March 3, 2017


We posted this article back in 2016, but we think it's worth re-visiting.  There are an increasing number of external organisations offering alcohol and other drug prevention sessions for school students. While there are benefits in local services connecting with students in order to promote their service, we know that poorly designed AOD prevention programs can have unintended impacts, including increasing substance use and harm. It can be difficult for schools to know if the prevention programs offered by external agencies are evidence-based. To help with this, we came up with some suggestions to assist school-based workers in assessing whether an externally delivered program might be effective.

  1. Does the program comply with the "Principles of School Drug Education"?
  2. Has the program been evaluated and found to change behaviour - (not just "the students enjoyed it")?
  3. Has the program been developed, endorsed or supported by a university or a goverment department like Queensland Health or Education Queensland?

If you can answer "yes" to these questions, then the chances are you have found a quality program for your school.  If you answer "no" to these questions, the program might be inappropriate for schools and could have unintended outcomes for the students. If you're not sure, feel free to get in touch with Dovetail and we'd be happy to help you decide if the program is suitable for your school.

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September 16, 2016


Associate Professor Nicole Lee from the National Drug Research Institute and Nicola Newton from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre have published an article on The Conversation titled "Ex-ice users lecturing kid's isn't the answer to preventing drug use."  The article describes a program developed by the Australian Anti Ice Campaign based on the Montana Meth Project, which while well intentioned has been shown to increase positive perceptions of methamphetamine use. The authors describe what works in school drug education, based on decades of research. The authors also highlight the potential unintended consequences of poorly designed school drug prevention campaigns, which can include increases in substance use, risk and harm.

Go to "Ex-ice users lecturing kid's isn't the answer to preventing drug use"

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June 24, 2016


A few years back, Eastern Health and Turning Point developed a short animated video called "Under Construction: Alcohol and the teenage brain".  The video resource is aimed at young people in grades 7 - 10, and presents up-to-date information on the effects of alcohol on different parts of the brain, as well as impacts on behaviour.  The video is designed to be screened as a part of the alcohol and other drug curriculum within schools, alongside material that supports assertive decision making and help seeking.

Watch "Under Construction: Alcohol and the teenage brain"

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June 10, 2016

Introducing Batyr

Batyr is an organisation that trains young people to speak about their personal experience with mental ill health.  They have a number of programs that will connect their trained presenters with schools and universities, so that young people with lived experience of mental ill health can deliver education in a fun, safe and engaging way.  The Batyr@School program offers 60 - 90 minute presentations for school communities, or half day and full day workshops designed for school students.  Batyr are offering their services to Queensland schools, so if you are interested, check out the Batyr website for more information.

Go to the Batyr website.

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