Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Blueprint drug education research programme –Update June 2008

I have been sent the following Jon Scanlan in the Home Office who thought it would be helpful to share as widely as possible.

Work on the drafting of the Blueprint programme final impact report will be ongoing over summer with the intention of releasing a final report by the end of October 2008.

Blueprint is the largest research programme ever run in England designed to test the delivery of an evidence-based, school-based drug education programme supported by work with parents, wider communities, local media and health professionals.

Home Office policy and research officials will use the summer months working intensively with colleagues at DCSF and the research contractor team at the University of Stirling to ensure that programme findings are robust so we can identify key issues arising from the research and draw reliable conclusions from the enormous amount of research material generated by the programme.

It is our aim that the final impact report will be a good quality and credible addition to the worldwide evidence base as were the Blueprint delivery and practitioner reports released in November 2007, which have informed the DCSF’s drug education review work over the spring.

For further details on the Blueprint programme please contact Jon Scanlan on jonathan.scanlan@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Filed under: Blueprint

The American Star Comes To England

Mike Ashton in Drug and Alcohol Findings points out a report he wrote in 2003, which examines the research behind the Blueprint drug education research in England.

The paper concludes that the American findings weren’t as strong as might have been assumed.

a straight choice between whether features of the schools or of STAR accounted for the outcomes is too simplistic. It seems likely that STAR had its greatest impact in schools with an enthusiasm and flexibility to give life to the lessons, and that in these schools STAR provided the structure needed for these virtues to create drug use reductions – that the active ingredient was an interaction between programme and school.

He then went on to look at whether it can be replicated in the UK, and sees a number of obstacles, including teachers needs in relation to guidance, the cost per pupil, and enthusiastic local support.

The paper concludes by arguing that we are still looking for the right approach to drug education:

Where STAR and I-STAR undoubtedly have lessons for us in their impressive orchestration of school and community mobilisation and in the methodologies developed to evaluate their impact. What the impact was is the major question…

Despite their flaws, studies which seem to have discovered the educational route to a more drug-free generation – broad, inexpensive and relatively easy to travel – are seized upon. The unpalatable truth is that the existence of such a route has yet to be adequately established.

Filed under: Blueprint, research, USA

Quotes from Blueprint

I’ve been reading through the Blueprint delivery report, and while I haven’t finished all 253 pages as yet I thought you might find some of the quotes I’ve found illuminating.

These ones are taken from the section looking at teachers fidelity to the teaching methods required by Blueprint.

Blueprint Co-ordinator, Year 8:

“It was all of the activities that allowed pupils to become involved really, in a sense to be doing something, whether it as the card sorting or playing the game or getting them up and doing some role play for the party or whatever the case was – those were the ones that worked.”

Teacher, Year 7:

 “When you have been chucking acid on metals for donkey’s years you don’t have to worry too much about the next thing, you know there is going to be a whiff and a pop.”

Teacher, Year 8:

“I have to say I didn’t feel very comfortable with discussion because that’s not something I do very often. I found it difficult not to preach…….I’m more used ‘This my way, this is the way we do it’.”

A School Drugs Advisor clearly found this lack of experience in using active learning techniques a bit of a shock:

“I hadn’t anticipated the lack of skills, lack of experience, lack of understanding, or a bit of all three, that the teachers actually had for active learning techniques…I was quite surprised how many didn’t even do basic stuff like small groupwork, never mind getting into pairs and so on – that’s been a big learning curve for us.”

Teachers explained why they deliberately changed the method of getting information across:

“The role play – these children didn’t have the ability to do that……I still did the task as a group but what I did was I had another teacher come into the class and I did the role play in front of everyone and then we took the children with us so we did the role play together.”

“Rather than me reading all the scenario out [in Lesson 14] I actually got different people to read the different characters out to make it a little bit more interesting, rather than hearing my voice all the way through”.

Here’s a School Drugs Advisor talking about the difference between teachers who are committed and those who aren’t:

“If the school…delivering the programme is delivering it through tutors [ie. not specialists in PSHE] you get such a range of enthusiasm and ability through the tutors and some will deliberately do things badly to avoid being given a tutor group the following year and that is through personal experience. So if you get a teacher who comes in very cynical and negative about it….then their delivery may not be as enthusiastic….It may just be a case of ‘right we’ll do this, away you go, we’ve got to stop now. I’ll follow the programme but I won’t do anything else’. But then on the opposite side, the training for the teachers I felt was – I thought there were a few teachers in our group who could have been like that and they were turned very positive by the end of it.”

And here’s another School Drugs Advisor on the difference that training makes:

“You can’t expect teachers [who] have no training in PSHE, which is drugs education, sex education, whatever,…..to suddenly use active learning methods that they’ve never used before; that they are not familiar with and they do not use in their normal day-to-day work.”

Moving on to the specific drug information covered in the lessons.  Teachers reflected on the different levels of knowledge, and what substances they felt it was most appropriate to focus on:

“I personally would have thought that maybe, for Year 7, it might have been more appropriate to just focus on smoking and perhaps cannabis as well and maybe alcohol.”

“There was one lad, he knew absolutely everything about drugs….He is a real wild boy…and he hangs around with kids a lot older than him and knew everything….And he was keen to participate as well so he probably gave quite a bit of knowledge to the rest of the pupils as well. I was quite surprised to be honest. I was also surprised as well at the lack of knowledge that some of the other pupils had.”

Interestingly at least some teachers found it difficult to get their pupils to open up:

“I still think a lot of them, because I’m their form tutor, were saying things they thought I wanted to hear…They didn’t like to tell me things they might have been doing that they thought I’d look back on and remember at Parent Review Day.”

Here’s another School Drugs Advisor talking about the impact that they (and Blueprint) has made in one school:

“In terms of actually shaping the way PSHCE’s [Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education] taught at the school I’m not sure, I don’t know whether [my support] will have an impact. But what was interesting to me was that the teachers concerned felt that what they were doing in Blueprint was very different from the normal diet of PSHCE. That came out very strongly. It led them to question the methodology that was being employed in the school.”

One of the components in the programme was an attempt to get positive media coverage for the schools around the delivery of drug education.  Here’s a Head Teacher reflecting on how useful that could be:

“When you get a good piece of press coverage like that, well, you utilise it. Schools get very good at, these days, if they’ve got some positive publicity, at recycling it and reusing it, and it appears again in other publications like the school newsletter and you feature it at presentation evenings, and you feature it in your prospectus, and all that sort of stuff.”

Clearly there’s lots more to be gleaned from the report than just these quotes (indeed I saw one table that I’m sure I’ll come back to in a separate post) but I certainly got a sense of some of the positive changes that came about as a result of the programme and it confirms the challenges which lie beyond if we’re to improve the delivery of drug education in England.

Filed under: Blueprint,

Blueprint Drug Education Research Programme – Delivery and Practitioner Reports

The Home Office have published the Blueprint programmes delivery and practitioner reports and a helpful executive summary of both.

Blueprint was a Home Office funded drug education research programme involving 29 secondary schools in 4 LEA areas; 23 are adopting the programme while 6 continue with their existing drug education programme to act as a comparison sample.

Eric Carlin, Chair of the Drug Education Forum, commenting on the reports said:

The Drug Education Forum welcomes these findings; there is a lot here to feel positive about. In particular we think it is significant that teachers were more confident in delivering the drug education after training.

We urge the government to build this into teachers’ initial training and to reinforce it with continuing professional development. It’s time that drug education became a subject that teachers feel comfortable tackling.

The report does make it clear that there is still a lot to learn, particularly around providing parents with what they need to support their children. Parents do want to ensure their children grow up healthy and we need to find ways of helping them do this and to spread the best practice that is out there.

We urge the government to ensure that community based approaches to drug education are complementary to those happening in schools, especially considering those who may not be in schools due to absence or exclusion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Blueprint, drug education, research,

SHEU on Ruth Joyce

In looking at the SHEU website for the last post I couldn’t help noticing their nice tribute to Ruth Joyce, who we know well at the Drug Education Forum:

Ruth’s impact on the world of drug education, and her influence on policy and practice, has been immense. Her contribution is widely recognised, not least by the award of her OBE for services to drug education, but also by teachers, and drug education professionals throughout the country. She is rigorous in her analysis of the issues around drugs, education and young people; determined in the pursuit of policy; tireless in her efforts to improve practice and delivery in schools and education generally; and dedicated to putting young people at the heart of this work. Ruth is continuing to work in the fields of PSHE and drug education as a consultant.

Go read it all.

Filed under: Blueprint


The alcohol strategy published today provides a clue on what the timetable is for with Blueprint:

A final report on the delivery of the programme will be published in spring 2007. The final report addressing impact on young people’s substance-using behaviour will be available in March 2008.

I’m hoping to be able to bring you a more definative position soon.

Filed under: Blueprint

Waiting on Blueprint

While we wait for the reports from the Blueprint research to be published the Civil Service Policy Hub have brought my attention to an older paper by Paul Baker (who worked on the development and implementation of the research).  They say:

On 14 March 2007 the Home Office (HO) posted an article (Developing a Blueprint for evidence-based drug prevention in England in Drugs: education, prevention and policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, February 2006: 17-32) which describes the Blueprint drug education programme, involving 29 secondary schools in four local education authority areas. Blueprint is the largest research programme ever run in England, and aims to find out what works in teaching young people about drugs and drug use.

As well as discussing how the research was put together and delivered Paul reminds us of the aims of the research:

Blueprint aims to design, deliver and evaluate an evidence-based drug prevention programme. Prevention is operationally defined as slowing the normal rate of increase in population-based use prevalence rates of tobacco, alcohol, volatile substances and cannabis during early adolescence, and reducing the harm to self and others arising from the use of these substances. The programme adopts a wide definition of a drug as ‘a substance people take to change the way they feel, think or behave’ (United Nations Drug Control Programme, 2002). This includes medicines, volatile substances, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and illegal drugs.

Filed under: Blueprint, drug education

Parliamentary Question on Blueprint

Conservative MP David Burrowes has asked a Parliamentary Question about the evidence base for the Blueprint Project.

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what data was used as evidence to support the commissioning of the Blueprint research programme.

Mr. Coaker: I have been asked to reply.

The Blueprint research programme was designed taking account of the worldwide evidence base for effective drug education interventions and applying the identified principles of effectiveness to the English school and strategic setting. Programme development has been best summarised in the article published by the original Blueprint Research Manager, Paul Baker. I will ensure a copy of the article is placed in the House Library.

The Home Office website has quite a lot of information about the evidence base they used.

Mr Burrowes is the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Social Justice Policy Group’s Addictions and Indebtedness Working Party.

Filed under: Blueprint, Conservatives

Parliamentary Question on VSA

From Hansard (via They Work for You) a question on Blueprint and VSA comes from David Amess (Southend West, Conservative) who asks:

what analysis has been made of the blueprint programme on volatile substance abusers.

Vernon Coaker (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office) replies:

The blueprint drugs education programme is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-component approach to school-based drug education. The programme was delivered in spring term 2004 and 2005 to 4,500 pupils in 23 schools in the North West and East Midlands regions. The programme is currently being evaluated to determine its impact on all drug use, including volatile substances, among the study cohort. The final impact report is due December 2007.

I’m not sure that Mr Amess understands the nature of the Blueprint programme, but he won’t be alone in that and if you’d like more information on what the research has been about then you may want to visit the Home Office website, here.

What Mr Coaker didn’t point to was the government’s framework for tackling Volatile Substance Abuse, which can be found here. The framework sets out what the government hope to achieve on VSA:

The principal aim of the framework is to ensure that the number of deaths arising from VSA continues to fall. The framework recognises the fact that due to the complexity of VSA, there are several important issues that need to be addressed. However, we have decided to focus action on those few areas which we believe will have the greatest impact. Other important areas, but with lower potential pay-off in reducing deaths, which are not addressed in this document will be looked at as we progress the work further. We have focused action on children and young people and on butane gas lighter refills, the product responsible for most of the VSA deaths.

Filed under: Blueprint, VSA

Blueprint moves to next stage

Alcohol and Drug News are reporting on the Blueprint research programme:

“The biggest drug education research programme ever run in this country has completed its delivery stage, according to the Home Office. ‘Blueprint’, initiated as a partnership between the Home Office, Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health, aimed to provide evidence of what works to educate 11 to 13-year-olds about risks of drug use – with a longer term aim of reducing the number of young people who become involved in taking drugs.”

Research on Blueprint will continue until 2007, when the final evaluation report will be published. For more information on the Blueprint Drug Education Research Programme, email Ruth Joyce, Blueprint manager, at ruth.joyce@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Filed under: Blueprint, drug education

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021