Barriers to Evidence-Based Education

Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University’s school of education, asks us to imagine that we used evidence to guide everything we do in schools and suggests:

educators would constantly look at their own outcomes and benchmark them against those of similar schools elsewhere. In areas that needed improvement, school leaders could easily identify proven, replicable programs. As part of the learning and adoption process, they would attend regional effective-methods fairs, send delegations to visit nearby schools using the programs, and view videos and websites to see what the programs looked like in operation.

He argues that there are there are four barriers to making this happen:

  • Too few rigorous evaluations of promising programs;
  • Inadequate dissemination of evidence of effectiveness;
  • A lack of incentives for localities to implement proven interventions; and
  • Insufficient technical assistance for implementing evidence-based interventions with fidelity.

Slavin is writing about the whole curriculum and indeed whole school interventions, but this seems to apply just as well to drug prevention.

He says that central government have a significant role in overcoming these barriers, not by determining which programmes to use but by:

  • Helping schools get better intelligence on proven programmes and persuading them that deploying them will lead to better outcomes.
  • Incentivising the take up of evidence based programmes through grant funding.
  • Supporting a variety organisations who can help local policy makers and school leaders learn about proven programmes.
  • Supporting organisations that can support the effective delivery of the programmes that schools choose to implement.

Read the whole article at Education Week: Overcoming Four Barriers to Evidence-Based Education.

Public Health England – marketing plan and youth

Public Health England have published their Marketing Plan 2013-14 which includes a section on youth.  The plan acknowledges that teenagers face a number of pressures and that it’s a time when many choose to smoke, drink, take drugs and have sex for the first time.  In response they say:

Our overall marketing objective is to catalyse positive conversations about health between peers and between parents and their children.

They also tell us that their marketing messages will be focused on 11 to 16 year olds on the understanding that once risky behaviours start marketing interventions are much less likely to succeed. Continue reading

Parliamentary Question – DfE spending on drug education

Conservative MP Nick Dubois asks the DfE:

(1) how much the Department spent on educating young people on the risks associated with Class (a) A, (b) B and (c) C drugs in each of the last five years;

(2) how much the Department spent on advertising the risks associated with Class (a) A, (b) B and (c) C drugs via the Frank drug information campaign in each of the last five years.

The DfE Minister, Elizabeth Truss, responds:

The Department for Education does not explicitly fund drug education. School pupils are currently provided with education on the physiological effects of drugs as part of the statutory National Curriculum Programmes of Study for science. They may also receive wider drugs education as part of non-statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

The FRANK service provides information and advice to young people about drugs. The Home Office, Department of Health and Department for Education work together to support the service. Funding is not allocated to advertising the risks associated with specific classes of drugs.

Here’s an example of the sort of information and advice FRANK has been providing young people.

Ofsted: Not yet good enough: PSHE education in schools

Ofsted have produced their latest report in PSHE education, Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools.

The report is based on inspections of 48 schools (half primary and half secondary) with 290 lessons, 31 assemblies and 20 other PSHE education-related activities observed.  In addition the inspectors talked to 200 teachers and 700 pupils.

As readers will guess from the title Ofsted have given their report they’re not convinced of the quality of provision, finding that in 40% of schools teaching was inadequate. Continue reading

GOV.UK, archiving and the policy priority for drugs and alcohol

The government have decided that having different websites for different parts of government is too complicated and so they’re collecting everything under GOV.UK this includes the Department of Health and the Home Office along with the majority of other departments (the DfE is to join soon).

They’ve also taken the view only to migrate content that has been developed since the change of government in 2010, and those pages that had high user visits.

I happen to know this because I was looking for the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance on alcohol and young people and when I couldn’t find it had a twitter conversation with the department who said:

I was left wondering whether this meant that the guidance was no longer considered current, so again I’ve asked and been told (much to my relief):

So if you’re looking for the CMO’s guidance it’s still around and may even make it back to the main DH web pages.

The other thing that has struck me in looking around for the drug and alcohol pages is the fact that the Home Office seems to be much less the lead department than has been the case.  At least that’s my reading of the taxonomy of the site where the focus is on public health rather than policing or criminal justice.  

Update: Just remembered this presentation I did for the Drug Education Forum about the CMO guidance and thought I’d give it another lease of life.

Drug and alcohol services have a good awareness of the needs of children living in families where parents have substance misuse problems

A new report from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, What about the children?, looks at joint working between adult and children’s services when parents have mental health or drug and alcohol problems.

In some ways drug and alcohol services seem to be ahead of their mental health counterparts, in part driven by the hidden harm agenda set out by the ACMD in their report of the same name back in 2003. Continue reading

Absence from schools by pupils in England


Given the relationship between risky behaviour and truancy from school the latest data on absences from the DfE should be good news.  The key points from the latest release are:

  • The overall absence rate decreased, from 5.8 per cent in 2010/11 to 5.1 per cent in 2011/12, continuing the recent downward trend.
  • The percentage of pupil enrolments classed as persistent absentees decreased, from 6.1 per cent in 2010/11 to 5.2 per cent in 2011/12, continuing the recent downward trend.

via Absence in schools, England, including pupil characteristics – Data, research and statistics.