If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad

If the government won’t describe what should be in the PSHE curriculum then who better to take a crack at it than the subject association.

They say:

In the absence of a new programme of study from the DfE, the PSHE Association, in consultation with a wide variety of agencies and PSHE practitioners, has produced this revised programme of study based on the needs of today’s pupils and schools. Our programme of study identifies the key concepts and skills that underpin PSHE education and help schools to fulfill their statutory responsibility to support pupils’ spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.

To get the resource all you have to do is sign-up to their newsletter or if you want the wider benefits to join the PSHE Association.


EMCDDA analysis of implementing North American drug prevention programmes in Europe

The EMCDDA have been looking at whether prevention programmes that have been developed in North America (USA and Canada) could be delivered to effect in Europe.

The key points the EMCDDA identify are:

  • Cultural infeasibility is often seen as more of a barrier than it should be.  Where adaptations have struggled it may have more to do with low prevalence and high social protection than flaws in the programmes.
  • Adaptation needs care and consultation, but is feasible.
  • In adapting American programmes those doing so should consider culture and context separately.
  • Thinking about the social capital available may help reduce any anticipated resistance to programmes that have been developed elsewhere.
  • Adaptation needs to be careful not to change the key principles that have made the programme effective in the first place.  Changing illustrative examples to make them accessible to participants is fine, but changing the programme protocol (number and order of sessions, etc.) is likely to change the efficacy.
  • A considerable barrier to implementation may be the perceived complexity of the North American programmes – multi-component, multi-sessions, etc.

The paper gives examples of a number of the programmes that have had European trials many that will be familiar to readers of this blog – the Good Behaviour Game, Preventure, Strengthening Families Program, and Communities that Care.

From my point of view this is a very helpful resource with lots of great nuggets for any of us thinking about how we can introduce or replicate evidence based programmes that have been developed elsewhere.

School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth

school connectednessThis paper on school connectedness is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, but looks like it could be just as useful in a UK context.  It makes the link between the ways that schools can reduce the risk factors in their pupil’s lives and enhance the protective factors and how this can and should improve their health.

Efforts to improve child and adolescent health typically have featured interventions designed to address specific health risk behaviors, such as tobacco use, alcohol and drug use, violence, gang involvement, and early sexual initiation. However, results from a growing number of studies suggest that greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors that place them at risk for adverse health and educational outcomes. Enhancing protective factors also might buffer children and adolescents from the potentially harmful effects of negative situations and events, such exposure to violence.

The paper suggests there are a number of factors that can increase school connectedness which they set out as:

  • Adult Support: School staff can dedicate their time, interest, attention, and emotional support to students.
  • Belonging to a Positive Peer Group: A stable network of peers can improve student perceptions of school.
  • Commitment to Education: Believing that school is important to their future, and perceiving that the adults in school are invested in their education, can get students engaged in their own learning and involved in school activities.
  • School Environment: The physical environment and psychosocial climate can set the stage for positive student perceptions of school.

This combination of a good curriculum (based in evidence) and the development of a school environment that protects young people will be at the heart of our new Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service.

Smoking, drinking and drug use by young people in England


We know that it’s almost time for the next survey of young people’s smoking, drinking and drug use in England, but until then here’s a presentation that Claire has done as part of the work we’re doing on our new Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS).

We’re going to be launching the service properly on 10th June and there are still a few places left if you’d like to join us.

Managing high risk behaviours in adolescents – Ofsted case study


In December 2007, Ethan, a 14-year-old boy, died as a result of a heroin overdose. Ethan was looked after and being supported by a range of services that were intended to protect him. Following his death, an independent management review was undertaken to establish what lessons could be learnt and what actions needed to be taken to minimise the risks to other young people. 

Ofsted have highlighted Northumberland County Council’s risk management model which seeks to safeguard adolescents who are taking significant risks with their health.  Their briefing “provides an overview of the processes in place in Northumberland and the impact that this way of working is having. It includes information about the risk management framework, a multi-agency partnership approach and engaging young people.”

Reviewing a school drug policy and responding to substance misuse

This was a presentation that my colleague Claire James gave to a conference about safeguarding in school recently.

The recently reviewed guidance to school governors points out:

Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 places a duty on the governing bodies of maintained schools, and regulations under section 157, about safeguarding pupils in Independent Schools (which include academies) requires academy trusts to have arrangements in place to ensure that they:

  • carry out their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children; and
  • have regard to the statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State in considering what arrangements they need to make for the purpose of that section.

The governors document points to older guidance which defines safeguarding and promoting the wellbeing of children as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment;
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development;
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
  • undertaking that role so as to enable those children to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.

I think it would be difficult not to see drug prevention as part of the mix for supporting safeguarding; but it also makes me think about the needs of those pupils living with parents that are having problems with drugs and alcohol, or those children who are in care or being looked after by a family member (often because of drug and alcohol misuse) and ensuring that their needs are met.

RisKit Programme – a multi-component programme for the reduction of risk behaviours in vulnerable adolescents.

Alex Stevens and colleagues from the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent have been working with KCA and Kent County Council to develop a programme that reduces risky behaviours.

They report that six months after delivering the programme, which was carried out with 226 participants who had been screened for vulnerability they were able to measure:

significant reductions in alcohol use (as measured by percentage days abstinent and drinks per drinking day). There were also reductions in illicit drug (mostly cannabis) use, although these were not statistically significant.

The programme manual has been made available on a Creative Commons license and can be downloaded here.

Well Happy App

The NHS in London have produced a smartphone app for young Londoners which hopes to empower young people when it comes to a range of health related risks.  The project manager puts it this way:

The project I am working on is an app and website for young people in London called WellHappy. It is a free health app for young people aged 12-25 in London and it allows you to search through thousands of local support services, including mental health, sexual health, drugs, alcohol and stop smoking services and find the nearest to you.

Like a lot of other young people, when I started to struggle, I had no idea where to turn. I didn’t want to go to my GP and I didn’t feel that I could talk to my friends or family. I wish I had had something like WellHappy to help me find the help that was right for me.

The app’s FAQ section on drugs and alcohol includes a range of advice including whether you can get expelled from school or college for taking drugs, to which they rightly say:

Yes, but your school or college does not have to automatically exclude you if they find out you have been taking drugs or have drugs on the school premises.  The school/college will have their own drug policy in place which will outline procedures to be taken.  They will also take into account the seriousness of the drug incident.

Interestingly they don’t include a similar question in their alcohol or smoking sections.

Mentor’s recent toolkit on developing a school drug policy had a case study (borrowed from the government’s 2004 guidance) on a Southwark school that sought the views of pupils that were at risk of exclusion when revising their drug policy:

A Year 10 tutor from a secondary school sought advice from the LEA to work with a group of pupils at risk of exclusion; the group contained both confirmed and suspected cannabis users. It was decided that the pupils would be approached and asked if they would participate in a focus group to discuss the school’s drug policy. This would enable them to become aware of the possible consequences of their behaviour and allow their views to be considered as part of the policy review process.

A number of issues were discussed that were relevant to both the school and to the pupils. They discussed the issue of informing parents/carers when a pupil is found using cannabis at school and agreed that this would be a deterrent if it were policy. The pupils also gave suggestions about how young people should be questioned by the school and what support could be offered.

This exercise increased the pupils’ understanding of school rules and the consequences of breaking them as well as reinforcing the school’s concern for their well-being. It enabled the pupils to feel that their views were valued.