Boys and Girls PLUS

Location: England
Demographic: young people aged 13-19
Delivery setting: schools; communities
Years active: 2014 – 2016
Contact email:
Keywords: alcohol and drug education; youth; schools; life skills; Europe


About the project

Mentor was part of a successful bid to the European Union to run Boys and Girls PLUS, which began in February 2014, in partnership with several organisations across Europe including Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Germany and Austria.

Building on the work of the original ‘Boys and Girls’ video web series, Boys and Girls PLUS aimed to raise awareness in the field of drug prevention and its related risks among European young people, as well as provide youth educators with complementary tools to use in drug prevention programmes. Specifically Boys and Girls PLUS was aimed at promoting healthy living for young people.

Ineffective prevention methodology

The traditional perspective on prevention is that:

  • Emphasising the harms (health and social) will disincentivise use.
  • Young people given enough information will make rational decisions about their health.
  • One-off interventions are enough.
  • Prevention means school alcohol and drug education/posters/TV advertising.

The Boys and Girls PLUS programme recognises that not only do these traditional approaches have a limited and often counter-productive impact but also that one-off interventions are not enough.

Societies tend to make a small investment in prevention and, on average, they reap a small return.

Drugs and Public Policy Group (2010), Drug Policy and the Public Good: a summary of the book. Addiction, 105: 1137–1145

The alternative

What young people have consistently told us is that they benefit from and welcome educational approaches which build their life skills and resilience in relation to the world around them.

 The Boys & Girls PLUS programme therefore bases its pedagogical principles in the life skills model as a strategy to manage the social influences on drugs use, which has shown promising results from the research of Gilbert Botvin.

Its basis lies in promoting healthy lifestyles with a particular focus on drug use (both legal and illegal) and the related risks including: alcohol use, unhealthy diet and early or risky sexual behaviour.

The details

In meeting the second aim of providing youth educators with tools for drug prevention programmes, Boys and Girls PLUS built on results from the first Boys and Girls project to develop mixed online and offline resources. This approach was proven to be more effective in creating better understanding and retention of messages.

These tools will be developed for two target groups:

  1. Schools: a paper guide for teachers (formal education);
  2. Non-formal settings: a guide based on digital content (more suitable for professional educators working in the field of drug prevention and more likely to adopt non-formal education methods).

Mentor will train organisations who sign up to participate on conducting lessons and workshops using the Boys and Girls PLUS material. Through various social media outlets, Boys and Girls PLUS plans to reach informal educators, teachers, families, NGOs, public institutions and young people across Europe.

Why ages 13 to 19?

There are more prevention programmes for pre-and early-adolescents (10-14) than older teenagers (16-19), mainly because of desire to reach young people before they start exhibiting any risky behaviours. However, past examples have shown the need for booster interventions at a later age as well. The target age range therefore is 13-19 and upwards to 21, particularly for young people with special needs.

Creating the evidence base

An essential part of the project was an evaluation that will provide data about the effectiveness of social media-based prevention programmes supported by the tools we develop. Moreover, taking into account that we will implement the developed programme in different education settings, this evaluation sought to understand if there are differences, as far as efficiency is concerned, between those settings. We expect that the research field, working on evidence-based prevention programmes, will benefit from our evaluation.


The project involvesdnine partners from eight European countries. The coordinator of the project was the University College Ghent (BE) – (HoGent).

  • Charles University in Prague (CZ) – (Charles University)
  • EDEX Centro de Recursos Comunitarios (ES) – (EDEX)
  • Society for Applied Social Science (DE) – (G-EF-AS)
  • Maas Research and Consulting (AT) – (MAAS)
  • Mentor Foundation UK (UK) – (Mentor Foundation)
  • Sex & Sundhed Danish Centre for Sexual Health Promotion (DK) – (Sex & Sundhed)
  • Institute for Research and development UTRIP (SI) – UTRIP
  • Business Solutions Europa (BE) – BSE

This partnership has a long history and incredible variety of experiences and skills in the field of prevention, and will help in the wide dissemination of the tools that will be developed across Europe.

Signing up your organisation

Boys and Girls PLUS is aiming to collaborate with professional colleagues working in informal education settings and in schools to promote healthy lifestyles, in preventing the use of drugs and the associated risks. Leading organisations have already signed up to partner with us on Boys and Girls PLUS.

Some of the reasons your organisation might want to join us include:​

  • It is at the leading edge of best practice in working with young people around well-being, and managing risk in relation to drugs and alcohol
  • By working with us you will be helping to establish evidence based practice as the norm rather than the exception
  • You will be introducing a high quality programme into your school, community group or youth project
  • You will be enabling young people to build and sustain healthier futures
  • You will be recognised for your contribution to this exciting programme in the evaluation and supporting literature
  • You will be helping us to refine what works and build on best practice in protecting children and young people across Europe.

If you are a school, further education college, local authority, pupil referral unit, youth group, community group, students union or work with young people in another capacity, contact Kate O’Brien for further information about this opportunity.

Further Information

Download the summary pack:

Boys and Girls PLUS info pack (300.8 KB)