March 27, 2014 – Understanding your pupils’ needs

Mentor are determined to bring evidence-based practice to mainstream education. We will do this through the delivery of free regional seminars exploring best practice in prevention and showcasing promising programmes for young people.

On Thursday 27th March the Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service was in Bristol to discuss ways to better understand pupils’ needs through efficient needs assessment.

Jamila Boughelaf introduced the newly launched ADEPIS quality standards for alcohol and drug education as a source of guidance and support for schools. The standards are intended to help schools ensure the delivery of a needs-led and appropriate programme of alcohol and drug education. She stressed the importance of delivering detailed situation analysis prior to alcohol and drug education programme planning, to ensure sessions meet all pupils’ needs.

An efficient needs assessment:

  • Allows for planning of appropriate and relevant programmes of alcohol and drug education;
  • Enables all pupils’ needs to be met, avoiding stigmatisation of the most vulnerable;
  • Enables implementation of a programme that builds on positive social norms and values;
  • Enables implementation of a programme that develops skills which pupils will need to address and overcome difficult situations (also in relation to substance misuse).

Dr. David Regis, from the Schools and Students Health Education Unit, introduced the Health-Related Behaviour Questionnaire (HRBQ). The questionnaire, which can be adapted according to specific school’s needs, normally maintains core questions around students’ health-related behaviours, enabling the collection of comparable data.

Surveys and questionnaires such as the HRBQ not only assess pupils’ knowledge and use of alcohol and drugs at a local level, but are also paramount to identifying previously overlooked  vulnerable groups or individuals.

As Dr. Regis pointed out, final reports and schools’ results can be compared with local trends and surveys delivered through the local authority giving feedback on the schools’ specific situation and progress over time. This data can be used to inform PSHE and alcohol and drug education lessons whilst simultaneously tailoring them to pupils’ needs.

Margaret Clarke, from the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, introduced and discussed the role of school nurses in identifying and referring vulnerable pupils. Margaret explained the referral pathway used by school nurses to support the most vulnerable, ensuring consistent treatment and interventions but also linking major issues with PSHE lessons.

The nursing assessment not only plays a major role in addressing risk factors affecting a pupil’s life, but also helps identify vulnerable pupils who may need additional support and referral to specialist services.

Karen Smith, from Nottingham City Council, explained how data collected through needs assessment can be used to help teachers deliver an effective alcohol and drug education programme. Bringing case studies of schools in Nottingham who used the D-Vibe survey to test pupils’ perceptions and skills, Karen showed how collected data and reports could be used to improve the school curriculum through a detailed self-assessment form.

School surveys and questionnaires allow for assessment of whether the alcohol and drug education curriculum is appropriate to the target audience, and also whether it is having any positive impacts on pupils’ lives. As Karen stressed, sometimes pupils can show high knowledge levels of alcohol and drugs related issues but then simultaneously high levels of alcohol and drug use. When this happens, teachers should re-evaluate what might be lacking amongst their pupils: facts about alcohol and drugs or the life skills to deal with them?

The final group discussion also stressed the importance of having clear targets and objectives coming from a needs assessment in order to make alcohol and drug education more effective. In these regards, teachers and practitioners should also understand the importance of evaluation and learn from what does not work to further improve their programmes.

We would like to thank all our speakers and everyone who attended the seminar.

If you would like to receive further information from the speakers, please contact us:

Watch out for the upcoming ADEPIS briefing paper “Efficient needs assessment in schools”.


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