This presentation was given at the Primary Care and Public Health 2016 Conference. It explores effective ways to improve school-based alcohol and drug education, ensuring the use and promotion of evidence based practice.
Who we are For 17 years, Mentor has developed specialist knowledge and experience in programme delivery to prevent and reduce risks, particularly from alcohol and drugs.
This helps build our evidence base of ‘what works’ for prevention – we draw on the best international scientific research available to inform our work and to help influence public policy related to the prevention of drug and alcohol misuse in the UK.
Our approach In today’s complex world, young people need life skills that help them negotiate challenging situations and build their resilience to a range of negative risks. We believe the best strategy for supporting the immediate and long-term well-being of children and young people is through a holistic life-course approach to intervention and prevention. This means targeting a variety of settings, including schools, communities and families, as well as ensuring interventions take place early and often, rather than acting in the later years when problematic behaviours are more difficult to address and change. dispelling some more linear approaches, e.g.:
· Focus on providing drugs harm information alone does not work
· Awareness campaigns don’t work
· Only reaching YP via school doesn’t work
· D&A focus alone fails to recognise broader risks
· Focus on enforcement legislation (e.g. NPS) alone doesn’t work
To implement a life-course approach to prevention it is also important to link existing services within the community, and see the community as an connected ecosystem of prevention.
There are many ways the individual organisations can connect. Here you can see just some of the key players in this ecosystem and the ways they might influence one another. This is by no means an exhaustive illustration – we’d run out of space on the slide if we tried to do that!
By bringing members of this community together, we can make more connections and focus our expertise and resources on the all-important centre of this ecosystem: young people and children.
Evidence shows that information alone is not an effective prevention method. The outcomes of informational drug education are more limited than those of more comprehensive prevention programmes, but it does not necessarily follow that drug education cannot contribute to preventive outcomes. The success of drug education is determined by a variety of factors, including accurate and age-appropriate information, normative education, social resistance skills, wider health-related education, the number of sessions, and regular follow-up to reinforce learning
School-based drug education can contribute significantly to achieving preventative outcomes, especially when part of a holistic approach to prevention. School is one of the best environments to reach out to Young People. The role of schools in promoting evidence-based prevention is crucial, specifically when thinking of universal prevention. Prevention is first of all about strengthening the protective factors that could influence young people’s life, provide them with the necessary tools to build their resilience to risks.
The following are identified as protective factors for young people: Strong family bonds Experiences of strong parental monitoring with clear family rules Family involvement in the lives of the children Successful school experiences Strong bonds with local community activities A caring relationship with at least one adult
To improve school-based alcohol and drug education, it is crucial that all activities undertaken are based on, and informed by evidence. Evidence is important because it brings accountability, confidence, feedback for improvement and evaluation of impact. It is important that all types of interventions, even class- based sessions delivered as part of PSHE education, are based on evidence, needs, and assessed and evaluated for impact.
Generally, evidence is intended as any argument or “proof” in support of a conclusion or assertion. It can be seen as information that helps us prove or demonstrate truth – or disprove something that is false.
Prevention science has been expanding in recent years and it is now used to address practitioners and policymakers when selecting and designing interventions. Drawing on the previous criteria, prevention scientists produced International standards to assess prevention programmes.
Many prevention programs are in place but how to select the most effective/with proven evidence behind it? Define and recognise evidence-based. Main features: programme effectiveness has been recognized through evaluations and rigorous studies assessing impact and outcomes Replicability of the programme –outcomes and impacts reproduced across multiple settings- Sustained effects over time
What is evidence? Guidance on the types of evidence based approaches and their characteristics
The above table summarizes interventions and policies that have been found to meet quality standards for good evidence and yield positive results in preventing substance abuse by age of the target group and setting, as well as by level of risk and an indication of efficacy.
Two main ways in which evidence can inform practice:
1- Inform classroom based alcohol and drug education through the application of quality standards, use of evidence-based resources, and additional support and training to be provided at a school level to develop a whole school approach to prevention.
2 – Evidence-based resourced programmes – standardised and accessible in the UK. Mentor currently delivering GBG - the Largest RCT of its kind currently running, and Unplugged – the first pilot in the UK
When we think of delivering alcohol and drug education in the classroom there are some key principles we should consider to make sure it is effective
Comprehensive social influence- This approach ensures that the life-skills connected to positive social influences are strengthened and further developed Development of positive peer pressure and positive peer influence.
Life-skills approaches: equip young people with specific skills and resources that they need to resist ‘negative’ social influences and to increase knowledge about drugs and their adverse health consequences.
Their elements and overall approach have a lot in common with good PSHE teaching. It is really important to reflect on the role of PSHE education and the ability to adapt effective approaches in the classroom.
There is no evidence that police-led programmes are particularly effective in drug prevention. The most effective police contribution is probably to teach about drugs and the law within an existent school-led programme.
Those who have overcome addiction often capture young people’s imagination when they speak in schools. As yet there is little evidence that their talks help young people avoid drug and alcohol harms – could they even be counterproductive? Rather than being seen as a quick fix, any contributions need to be carefully thought through as part of a broader programme.
In the previous slide we did mention that information alone is not effective. This however does not mean that teachers should not use information to deliver effective alcohol and drug education. ‘once the type of information is relevant and up-to-date, it is not much the information that is given, but how the information is given’.
It is therefore important to be able to use the information available to send positive and educational messages, rather than scare tactics. Use information to develop positive social norms.
Sharing best practice Evidence is crucial to our work, as it helps ensure programmes are effective at protecting children and young people from the harms of drugs and alcohol.
The Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service is a platform for sharing information and resources aimed at schools and practitioners working in drug and alcohol prevention.
The resources we have already produced draw on eight years of work with the Drug Education Forum, which supported local authorities and schools to implement best practice in drug education.
In April 2015, Mentor was granted additional joint government funding to manage the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) and integrate its repository of evidence-based impact studies into Mentor-ADEPIS.
QM for schools To support schools’ reflection and provide useful evidence towards: The requirements of ‘Personal Development, Behaviour & Welfare’ in the new Ofsted framework; Supporting schools in their statutory duties to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and promote wellbeing, Providing public health teams with essential local data which could help monitor trends and focus service delivery.
QM for providers: Based on the European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS) Assesses various aspects of delivery: project development, needs assessment, consideration of field research, and evaluation methodologies. Proves that the organisation or individual is meeting standards for effective alcohol and drug education and. prevention
LA: To enable the Local Authority or regional Public Health services to ensure the development of even more effective local preventative systems, developed with, and grounded in, the community.
It includes: Review of resources and services Production of a report Capacity building and training opportunities
To support best practice at national level we offer free resources and guidance documents for schools and practitioners. This month we have launched a free online Professional Development course to improve the delivery of high quality alcohol and drug education.
Thanks and questions
Improving Schools-Based Drug and Alcohol Education
Primary Care & Public Health
19th May 2016
Drug and Alcohol Education –
Who we are
Mentor is the UK’s authoritative voice in
protecting young people from the harms of
drug and alcohol misuse.
Research Programmes Policy
A holistic, life-course, systemic approach to prevention:
Developing life skills that build resilience to risk.
Throughout a young person’s lifetime
A connected ecosystem
Teacher & staff
Youth / community
collection Legal services
• Develop life skills that build resilience to
risk in children & young people
• Age appropriate & early
• Holistic, life-course approach
Why is school-based education
• School interventions reduce substance
use and improve academic outcomes
• Strong attachment to schools is in itself a
• Opportunity for learning with peers –
• Multi-sessions and regular follow-up to
How do we improve school-
based alcohol and drug
• Feedback for
• Evaluation of
What is evidence?
• Rigorous evaluation assessing impact
• Replicability across multiple settings
• Sustained effects over time
“Evidence is information in support of an
assertion. That information can be strong or
weak. We want that information to be as strong
– Centre for Youth Impact
Source: UNODC International Standards on Drug Use Prevention, 2015
How does evidence inform
A model of good drug education
• Needs-led and age-appropriate;
• Interactive learning;
• Develop positive health values;
• Developing personal and social skills;
• Challenging misperceptions about the
prevalence and acceptability of drug use
What does work?
Approaches based on ‘social influences’ are the
most effective at changing young people’s
Programmes based on life-skills approaches
were found to reduce alcohol, tobacco and
What doesn’t work
× Emphasising harms (scare techniques)
× Knowledge-based education (relying on
× One-off sessions
× Passive approaches (posters, leaflets, TV
× Use of ex drug users and/or police officers
How to use information
Social norms: A social norms approach seeks to
use actual behaviours and up-to-date, reliable
data to challenge the influence of misperceived
• Data on ‘number of 15 years old who have tried
cannabis’ can be flipped to show ‘number of 15
years old who never tried cannabis’
Sharing best practice
Mentor-ADEPIS is publicly acknowledged as
the leading source of evidence-based resources
for alcohol and drug education and prevention for
Supporting best practice
- Quality Standards
- Quality Assessment Framework (Quality Mark)
- Quality Mark for Providers
Local Authorities and Public Health Authorities:
- Systemic support and structural review of services
provided by the Local Authority