We were delighted to see Mentor-ADEPIS referenced in Edward Timpson MP’s response to a recent Parliamentary Question regarding alcohol and drug education.
As the Minister of State for Children and Families at the Department for Education, Timpson’s responsibilities include many of the same areas as Mentor’s work: child protection and children in care, as well as character and resilience building and PSHE education. It is therefore encouraging to see the Minister citing Mentor-ADEPIS as a source of expert advice and resources for delivering alcohol and drug education.
Mentor’s leading role in prevention research and practice
At Mentor, we advocate a holistic, life-course approach to prevention that builds young people’s resilience to a range of harms, particularly those related to alcohol and drugs. We have 18 years’ experience building on the best international evidence, research and practice, which uniquely places us at the forefront of prevention research and programme delivery.
We launched the Alcohol and Drug Education & Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) in April 2013 as a platform for sharing information and resources aimed at schools and practitioners working in alcohol and drug education and prevention. This service has grown over the last three years into the UK’s leading source of evidence-based information and resources for alcohol and drug prevention in educational settings.
The Mentor-ADEPIS resources draw on eight years of work with the Drug Education Forum, which supported local authorities and schools to implement best practice in drug education, and provide a foundation for our ongoing work with schools, local authorities and practitioners working with children and families.
In 2015 we integrated the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) into Mentor-ADEPIS in order to further embed expert advice and support within local provision of alcohol and drug prevention and education. Over the last year we have continued to grow this repository of research on ‘what works’ in prevention, as well as expanding our expert network through a series of regional seminars and online webinars.
In addition to growing support within the UK, Mentor’s research has also received increasing recognition and engagement at an international level, with organisations such as UNESCO, UNODC, WHO, EMCDDA and EUSPR inviting Mentor to present research findings at meetings and conferences.
Supporting the shift towards prevention and education
Our work primarily focuses on alcohol and drugs, as this is where we have the greatest experience and knowledge. But we also recognise the complex nature of the risks faced by young people; those vulnerable to substance misuse may also be more likely to experience problems related to sexual and domestic violence, mental ill health and gambling addiction.
In the UK there is a growing shift towards prevention across a wide range of risks, including mental health, online safety, sexual health and substance use. There is also widespread recognition of the importance of early intervention measures that build children and young people’s resilience and equip them with the knowledge and values to make healthy decisions and avoid harmful habits and behaviours.
This growing understanding and prioritisation of evidence-based prevention also reflects global trends, where inclusive, holistic responses to substance use have become a substantial priority. Indeed, in September 2015 Mentor was invited to share examples of good practice and contribute to new international guidance at an expert meeting hosted by by UNESCO, UNODC and WHO.
Still a long way to go
We were disappointed by the government’s decision to reject the Commons Education Select Committee’s recommendations to make PSHE education a statutory entitlement in UK schools. In a letter detailing her decision, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP cites concerns over the “variable quality of its provision, as evidenced by Ofsted’s finding that 40% of PSHE teaching is ‘less than good'”. Proponents of statutory PSHE argue these inconsistencies would be helped by giving the subject the status to encourage widespread efforts to ensure its quality, something Morgan acknowledges in her letter.
We know that helping young people develop ‘life skills’ is a vital component in building their resilience against alcohol and drug use alongside the other risks we mention above. Despite the encouraging growth of Mentor-ADEPIS over the past three years, there is still a colossal amount of work to be done, particularly in terms of influencing alcohol and drug education across the UK.
We are encouraged to work harder, not discouraged by the decision about statutory PSHE education. We need to continue to raise awareness, engage with schools, other practioners working with young people and parents, and work towards a systemic approach to prevention that supports those programmes which strengthen young people’s chances for success.
As we continue to develop our research base and the services provided through Mentor-ADEPIS, we will serve an increasingly important role as a leading source of evidence-based guidance and resources for alcohol and drug prevention and education. We look forward to expanding this work in collaboration with our partners in government, education and the third sector to ensure a future generation of resilient young people equipped to thrive in the modern world.