The secondary school years are an important developmental time, where young people are more likely to engage in risky behaviours. During these formative years it is vital that we support and encourage them to develop the knowledge, skills and values they need to face life’s challenges in appropriate ways.
Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education does exactly this – but with the existing pressure on ensuring young people achieve the best results at school, PSHE often gets squeezed out of the curriculum, and teachers often end up in having to look for a quick fix to provide some information to our students and hoping this would be enough to ‘get them to make the right choices’ in their lives. Unfortunately, quick fixes are never good enough.
So, how can schools make sure that their pupils receive high-quality alcohol and drug education as part of an excellent PSHE curriculum?
That’s where we come in.
We are Mentor – a leading national charity working to build young people’s resilience in order to prevent harm, particularly in relation to substance misuse. Our Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) is recognised by leaders in education and government as the leading source of evidence-based information and tools for alcohol and drug education and prevention for schools.
To help schools and practitioners deliver the best, evidence-based practice in drug education, we developed a set of Quality Standards and tools for schools and practitioners to review and improve their practice.
We also developed a Quality Assessment Framework for schools based on these standards, as well as self-assessment tools to help evaluate schools’ drug education provision, and a Quality Mark for external providers.
While our specialisation is in alcohol and drug prevention, we’ve seen common themes emerging across all areas of the prevention work we do: building resilience works. Busting myths about what their peers do works. Developing pupils’ coping skills works.
We know what works – we’ve spent almost 20 years researching, testing and evaluating prevention programmes and there is a wealth of evidence to back up what we know.
When it comes to alcohol and drug education, we’ve seen that some of the most commonly used approaches are not effective, and can in fact be harmful at times.
The first step in a provision review is to complete the short self-assessment, suitable for primary and secondary schools as well as post-16, academies and other educational settings.
Mentor would then identify a local consultant to visit the school. The consultant’s role would be one of support and verification, not judgement. They would be given a brief tour of the school by a small group of pupils before meeting and working to support key individuals in the school, including, for example, a member of the senior leadership team; PSHE leads; representative groups of pupils, governors, parents and other appropriate stakeholders.
On completion of their review, Mentor consultants produce a report with recommendation for improvements.
The review process supports schools’ reflection and development, providing valuable evidence towards meeting Ofsted’s ‘Personal Development, Behaviour & Welfare’ requirements and supporting schools in their statutory duties to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and promote wellbeing.
The review, report and guidance discussions will provide schools with recommendations and suggestions for improvement that could be undertaken by the school itself, or through the provision of additional support by Mentor, such as CPD or other targeted services.
When inviting an external educator to school to deliver alcohol and drug education, it is important not only to make sure it complements the alcohol and drug education already provided as part of your school’s PSHE curriculum, but also to ensure the approaches used by the service provider are based on evidence.
We know from years of working with schools that selecting the right external providers can be difficult. Mentor used the European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS) to develop the Quality Mark for Providers, a recognition of those who have demonstrated effective practice and sound knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work in alcohol and drug education and prevention.
As a school, if you are planning to invite an external provider, you may want to encourage them to consider undertaking the self-review and Quality Mark.
The main aim of school-based alcohol and drug education should not simply be to increase knowledge of substances and their effects, but also to delay or prevent substance misuse. If we want to support young people in growing up into responsible adults, we need to help them develop the right skills to make informed choices, become resilient to the complex variety of risks, and allow them to ask questions and support when needed.
Schools are playing an increasingly vital role in supporting young people’s transition into adulthood. To give children the best chance at growing up into healthy, thriving adults, we need to provide all pupils with not only the right information, but the skills they need to make better choices with that information.
To find out more about Mentor’s consultancy services, please visit our website.
To talk to someone about review your alcohol and drug education, please call or email Jamila Boughelaf at 020 7553 9920 or [email protected]