Alcohol and drug education in the UK

Alcohol and drug education in 2017: our findings

This is our 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.

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 information from the research will help us plan how we best use our resources to support schools.

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.
To access the full findings of this report:

“We don’t get taught enough” – An assessment of drug education provision in schools in England (2015)

The findings from Mentor’s recent work on school-based alcohol and drug education have been published by the peer-reviewed international journal, Drugs and Alcohol Today. The paper presents findings from Mentor’s London Youth Involvement Project and ADEPIS research, as well as key learning from the implementation of ADEPIS in schools in England. In doing so, we offer insight on the current provision of drug education in schools, with implications for national policy and practice, and present ADEPIS as a framework for supporting schools to deliver quality, evidence-based drug education.

EUSPR poster imageADEPIS Programme Manager Jamila also presented these findings with a poster at the Sixth EUSPR Conference in October 2015 – click on the poster image (right) to see a full-size version.

Key Points

  • Low frequency of drug education delivery: 48% students received drug education once per year or less.
  • Inconsistent adherence to evidece-based standards: 3 in 10 teachers favour ‘hard-hitting messages’, which can have a negative impact. Less than half of teachers use ‘challenge myths and misconceptions’, a key component of quality drug education.
  • Only 68% of students ‘trust the drug education they get in school’.
  • Schools are constrained by a lack of curriculum time, a lack of financial capacity, and the impact of non-specialist teacher training.
  • There is a need both to enhance the status of drug education within the curriculum, as part of statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic education, and to provide centralised guidance and support.

The paper is published in Drugs and Alcohol Today (2015) Volume 15, Issue 3, pp. 127-140. You can view a post-print version of the article here.


Drug and alcohol education in schools (2013)

This report details research carried out by the PSHE Association, on behalf of Mentor, to inform ADEPIS’s work in supporting schools’ drug and alcohol education and prevention. The findings outlined in this survey are the result of a detailed online survey of respondents from 288 schools (primary and secondary) and 20 follow-up telephone interviews.  In total, 156 respondents were from secondary schools and 70 from primary schools and the remaining 62 from other settings such as middle schools, FE colleges and pupil referral units.

Key findings:PSHE drug education in schools

  • Drug and alcohol education provision remains inconsistent in delivery across educational establishments within England.
  • Primary school settings remain less confident in their ability to access effective resources and to provide best practice in drug and alcohol education provision. A fifth of respondents from primary schools (19%) felt they had little access to effective resources for teaching drug and alcohol education.
  • Four-fifths (81%) of all respondents said they would like more classroom resources for drug and alcohol education.
  • While elements of good practice exist throughout educational settings, assessment and evaluation, continuity in learning and quality assurance of resources and external support remain weaker areas.
  • While there are numerous examples of excellent PSHE/drug and alcohol education teaching, overall many practitioners continue to feel constrained by a lack of curriculum time to build continuous learning, and gaps in finance for resources and staff training.
  • Staying up-to-date on information and resources around drugs represents a particular concern for teachers, especially in secondary settings.
  • Interview discussions reveal that practitioners continue to require advice on how to interact with parents around drug and alcohol education, particularly in primary settings.
To access the full findings of this report: