Alcohol and drug education in 2017: our findings

A new report from Mentor-ADEPIS indicates that little has changed in the thinking of schools, students or other stakeholders since previous evaluations starting in 2013. The report contains several findings that are consistent with previous reports, as well as additional insights from young people.

14 December 2017 | Education

We are thrilled to share our latest report with you, ‘Alcohol and drug education in schools’, which contains examples of current practice and policy around alcohol and drug education in UK schools, as well as recommendations for further improvement.

Many thanks to: Angela Milliken-Tull MEd MSc FRSPH and Rebecca McDonnell BA(Hons) for carrying out this research for us; the 172 survey respondents, particularly those who gave up their time for detailed follow-up interviews; and the groups of young people who formed our focus groups. The key findings are summarised below, and more can be found in the full report.

The information from the research will help us plan how we best use our resources to support schools. If you’d like to comment, have your say below or by contacting us on Twitter (@MentorADEPIS) or via email (adepis@mentoruk.org).

Key findings 

  • 95% of primary schools and 97% of secondary schools reported that they deliver some alcohol and drug education.
  • There is a continued widespread lack of consistency in the delivery of alcohol and drug education in both primary and secondary schools.
  • CPD for alcohol and drug education is too often not easily accessible locally for schools. 80% of teachers don’t know if their local authority can provide high quality CPD for alcohol and drug education; 70% feel the same about CPD for PSHE more broadly.
  • There is no assessment of PSHE in 39% of primary schools and 33% of secondary schools who responded to the survey.
  • Time constraints in secondary school, particularly at Key Stage 4, frequently eliminate any alcohol and drug education.
  • Teachers and young people identified the links between mental health and substance use as a key area where they would like more input.
  • Schools feel that the non-statutory status of PSHE education negatively impacts on the resources, time, quality and the importance given to these sessions within pressured school curricula, particularly at Key Stage 4.
  • Students want to be actively involved in informing how alcohol and drug education is delivered, but opportunities to develop co-learning models with students are being overlooked.
  • There is a need to use misconceptions about alcohol and drug use within the learning environment to dispel myths, challenge views and develop pro-health social norms, based on accurate local data.
  • Funding cuts and reduced service provision makes access to external support increasingly difficult for schools. One teacher even reported feeling so anxious about the lack of external support for their students, that they had to relinquish their role because their own mental health was suffering.
  • Mentor-ADEPIS resources and support are viewed very favourably by teachers and other professionals who are aware of them.

What we learned

This is the third evaluation report completed since 2013. There are some findings that are consistent with previous reports, including: teachers reporting time constraints; lack of support and (in primary schools particularly) a lack of confidence to deliver alcohol and drug education. Teachers also raised concerns about accessing high quality classroom resources and professional development opportunities.

Some additional insights have also come to light as a result of interviewing young people, as well as consulting with more teachers in focus groups and interviews in this evaluation. Novel Psychoactive Substances is the area most commonly reported as being of lacking in teaching resources – this was not addressed in the 2013 survey – and teachers also report greater levels of concern regarding access to CPD, indicating the continuing reduction of support across many local authorities.

Young people echo teachers’ concerns over the lack of resources, as well as a lack of provision around the connections between alcohol and drug education, mental health and other aspects of PSHE. Young people also report that they want to be more involved in the planning of their alcohol and drug education and to receive input that is relevant to them, including normative education that dispels the myths surrounding drugs and alcohol.

Mentor-ADEPIS is committed to continuing our work to support and encourage good practice and policy around alcohol and drugs education. This will help give teachers more confidence in providing effective provision and signposting students to effective resources.

In a challenging financial time, schools’ access to local support and resources varies widely. Mentor-ADEPIS will also continue to work with key players such as Public Health England to raise the profile of drug and alcohol prevention among competing local priorities.