Principals have called for expert student wellbeing officers in every primary school to help pre-teens grappling with issues such as drugs.
Victorian Principals’ Association president Gabrielle Leigh said students “are maturing earlier”, creating a wider spectrum of potential problems.
“There’s more awareness (of drugs) and more experimentation at a younger age. It starts appearing occasionally at year 4,” Ms Leigh said.
“That’s the worrying trend.”
Child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said this matched his clinical experience.
“What was happening when kids were perhaps 15, is now happening a lot earlier,” he said.
“Previously, they were talking about their Barbie dolls, now they are talking about alcohol and marijuana.”
Ms Leigh said every school should have access to a wellbeing officer, but only half of them did.
The Australian Drug Foundation’s policy manager, Geoff Munro, backed Ms Leigh’s call but said it was important to note recent surveys of secondary school students showed drug use was in decline.
He said schools still had too few resources to tackle the issue.
A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon, Ashley Gardiner, said the Government was serious about fighting drug abuse and that an overhaul of the drug education curriculum in Victoria was “world-leading”.
He said primary schools specifically were being given resources.
“We are investing $124 million to increase the number of schools with primary welfare officers from 500 to 800 by 2014,” he said.
New police figures show a spike in drug offences recorded on school grounds.