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Involving Children and Young People In Drug Education

Involving Children and Young People In Drug Education


November 2006


The report can be downloaded as a PDF.

Involving Children and Young People in Drug Education



This report describes examples of practice across a range of settings where children and young people have been actively involved the development of drug educational approaches and/or policy. Examples of young people’s involvement were gathered through interviewing children, young people, teachers and youth workers in four settings and we have also been provided with examples by members of the Drug Education Forum.


DfES guidance for schools (Drugs: guidance for schools, 2004) and guidance for the youth service (ref DrugScope/Alcohol Concern guidance) recommends a holistic approach, in which, staff, children and young people, parents and appropriate agencies have a voice in the development of drug policy, including educational programmes and incident management.


A variety of sources (e.g. Be Aware (NCB 2004) show that young people are keen to be involved in the development of drug education


The then Children and Young People’s Unit (CYPU, now the Children, Young People and Families Directorate) published Learning to Listen, Core Principles for the Involvement of Children and Young People (2001). The core principles are:


  • A visible commitment is made to involving children and young people, underpinned by appropriate resources to build a capacity to implement policies of participation
  • Children and young people’s involvement is valued
  • Children and young people have equal opportunity to get involved 
  • Policies and standards for the participation of children and young people are provided, evaluated and continuously improved

Although these principles were aimed at government departments, they provide a useful framework on which to base involvement policies.


Working together: giving children and young people a say, statutory guidance for LEAs and schools, was issued by the DfES in 2004 ( It includes the principles put forward by the CYPU (see above) and, in addition:


  • Quality standards


It also provides an effective participation checklist, and the following quotations from the Young People’s Advisory Group involved in the development of the guidance:



  • We have a right to be heard too
  • It doesn’t matter how young you are, we all have a role to play

Treseder (1997 revised 2004) Children are Service Users Too: A guide for consulting children and young people,  Save the Children,) describes five degrees of participation that children and young people may be involved in:


  • Child-initiated, shared decisions with adults
  • Child initiated and directed
  • Adult-initiated, shared decisions with children
  • Children assigned but informed
  • Children consulted and informed

and argues that these should be seen as ‘different, but equal, forms of good practice’.


Kirby et al (2003) Building a Culture of Participation: involving children and young people in policy, service planning, delivery and evaluation, DfES,  give the following key messages in their handbook which “draws on the findings of a research study that explored the experiences of 29 organisations in seeking to listen to young people and to take action on what they said”:


  • Acting on children and young people’s views has positive outcomes
  • There are different cultures of participation and organisations need to be clear about reasons for undertaking participation
  • Undertaking meaningful and sustainable participation requires organisations to change
  • Meaningful participation is a process not simply the application of isolated participation activities or events
    Strategies designed to address both personal and public decision-making are needed ro fulfil children and young people’s right, under UNCRC, to be involved in all decisions affecting their lives
  • There are many ways to involve children and young people in different types of decisions
  • Listening needs to influence change

The national evaluation of the Children’s Fund (2006) found that “it seems that participation to enhance prevention occurs in three ways: in the development and refining of services; in helping children to become effective decision-makers who develop confidence through being listened to; and in the negotiation of personal trajectories or pathways through service provision”.


In relation to drug issues in particular, SCODA (now DrugScope) and the Children’s Legal Centre published ten key policy principles for young people service provision in 1999. These included:


  • The views of the young person are of central importance, and should always be considered

A survey carried out by the DEF on the impact of the DfES guidance in London schools revealed that:

[although] in most cases drug education was reported as covering all drugs including medicines, volatile substances, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, discussions in our focus groups tended to centre on illegal drugs.  Some drug education omitted consideration of substances such as medicines and volatile substances. 


Pupils suggested that more attention might be paid to alcohol, the use of medicines and volatile substances.


(Is That Legal; The Impact of ‘Drugs: Guidance for Schools’ – a local survey, Drug Education Forum 2005)

Ofsted’s recent report on drug education in schools suggested that involving children and young people is an area where progress needs to be made.  The report said:

Despite the good attempts being made by over half the schools to engage the pupils in a dialogue about drugs, the lack of understanding of their needs remains a problem. (Ofsted 2005)

Examples of young people’s involvement were also provided by members of the Drug Education Forum


Aims and Objectives


The aim of the project was to find and disseminate examples of where children and young people have been consulted to assess their needs in relation to drug and alcohol issues and in developing and implementing drug policy in educational settings.


The objectives were:

  1. To hold up to 5 consultation meetings, which involve both young people and adults, in different regions of the country and in at least 3 of the following settings:
    – Secondary school
     – Primary school
    Pupil Referral Unit
    Youth club
    FE College 
  2. To recommend approaches to consultation with children and young people for commissioners and providers of drug education services.
  3. To disseminate these recommendations across England, particularly in areas where the consultation meetings have taken place.
  4. To evaluate the process so as to inform future work plans for the Drug Education Forum, ensuring that the Forum continues to consult appropriately with young people




The Drug Education Forum commissioned Dynamix Ltd, a rights-based training company, to identify examples of young people’s involvement in drug education and incident management policies, carry out research with the adults, young people and children involved (Objectives 1, 2 and 4) and develop case studies based on the research.


A programme was devised to enable children and young people in a wide range of settings and from different age groups to demonstrate how they had informed and influenced drug education and drug policy in their settings .  The consultations were designed to be participative, engaging and fun whilst being flexible enough to suit the differing experiences of the groups we were working with. They were planned to be inclusive, taking into account differing preferred learning styles.


N.B.  When working with the younger children, it was clear that they did not always understand that they were influencing their drug education provision, and were sometimes unclear about their expectations of drug education. 


The methods used were adapted for participants to reflect their ages and understanding.



Case Studies

Crescent Primary School, Mansfield. Key Stage 1


Crescent Primary School followed the ‘On Track’ programme of eight lessons with a range of Key Stage 1 classes.  ‘On Track’ is a life skills programme for 6 and 7 year olds in Primary Schools, providing them with the confidence, knowledge and responsibility, to be healthy and sure about what they do and what they know, whilst growing up in a drug using world.


The first session was a needs analysis session designed to find out what knowledge, attitudes and skills the children already had about drugs. This was followed by basic risk assessment strategies, the notion that drugs change the body’s state, the fact that all medicines are drugs but not all drugs are medicines and dealing with pressure to take drugs. Finally the first research session was repeated to evaluate how far the children’s knowledge, attitudes and skills had developed.


Needs analysis

‘On Track’ used Wetton, Williams and Moon’s well known Draw and Write technique published in Health for Life (revised edition 2000 published Nelson). The drug-related draw and write tool is called ‘Jugs and Herrings’, derived from some young children’s misunderstanding of ‘drugs’ and ‘heroin’ (though the latter word is not mentioned to the children).


This is a story about a child who finds a bag with drugs inside it. The children were asked to draw and write responses to a number of established questions. The teacher then analysed the written responses to determine which drugs they were already aware of, their attitudes towards drug users and risky situations and their views on the good and harm drugs can do. The story was used in the planning stage to assess what education they needed and then used again at the end to evaluate how much the pupils had learnt.



What information the needs analyses gave

The needs analysis showed that children generally either knew nothing at all about drugs and found it hard to even begin stating what might be in a bag of drugs or they knew names of injectable drugs and already had ideas about ‘bad people’ who took drugs. Other controlled drugs were rarely mentioned and medicines were never mentioned.


How this influenced the drug education

The children who mentioned the names of drugs such as heroin needed to be taught that ‘drugs’ can refer to a variety of substances. Particular emphasis also had to be planned within the education for developing these children’s knowledge and attitudes of people who take drugs


Pupil’s experiences of the needs analysis

“I have learnt everything I wanted to”

“We had lots of chances to ask questions”

“[On Track] covered all I wanted to know”

“I covered everythink”

“I felt excited because it was something different”

“I thought it would be boring”

“I have covered everything I need to know about harmful and unharmful drugs it was easy to understand”

“ I know adsacly what to do”

“On trak is the best lesen”

“The story was interesting”

“There were lots of chances to ask questions”

Points of good practice

The repetition of the needs analysis as an evaluative tool is a very simple and effective way of evaluating what the children had learnt over the course of their drug education. As On Track as a whole, and the needs analysis in particular, is so easily followed, based on good primary practice and is both child- and teacher-friendly, it inspires confidence in teachers previously unfamiliar with drug education and allows them to tailor their education to meet the needs of the children they are working with.


Although this technique identifies the children’s pre-existing knowledge and perceptions, it is a needs assessment tool (and, if used post-programme, an evaluative tool) rather than an overt or explicit consultation tool.



Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project. Ages 14-19



The Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project


“aims to provide support, guidance and advice, as well as educational programmes for young women, including mothers, who, for a variety of reasons, have become isolated and cut off from services within their communities, including, very often, their schools. 


Each programme at the centre aims to provide different facilities and targets specific needs. For example, ‘Supportive Education for School Age Mothers’ combines personal skill development and formal educational achievement. Many learners from this and the other programmes are supported and go on to gain GCSE’s and other qualifications to go in to Records Of Achievement.


Within the programmes, the young women are not given set rules to follow when working things out because the emphasis is much more on the process of learning rather than the outcome, giving them the confidence to try.”

 During a project run by NECA (North East Council for Addiction) around raising young people’s awareness of alcohol, young mothers from the project were asked to research what information was currently available to young people and find out where the gaps were. They then received education from NECA on these themes and went on to design and distribute leaflets and posters to raise other young people’s awareness in these areas.


Needs analysis

In this instance the needs analysis did not take the form of a specially designed activity. When researching information available to young people on a range of issues concerning alcohol, the young women realised that there was very little information on drink spiking. They then carried out a comprehensive trawl of information available to young people before presenting to NECA a list of questions they wanted answering around this issue. Thus, through the young women’s research  NECA was able to identify the likely needs of other young people in the area. 


The benefits of this approach from the adults’ perspective

Such a young person directed approach is beneficial both to the individual young people involved and to the broader aims of the project. For the young people there was clearly a strong feeling of ownership and being in control and their empowerment was one of the largest benefits of this approach. Young women for whom it was a challenge at the beginning of the project to telephone a stranger for information, were at the end addressing large audiences about the project. There are obvious benefits in having young people research and assess information available to other young people: young people will know where other young people will look for information; they are more likely than adults to know if the information addresses the most pertinent issues to young people; and they will know better than adults whether information is presented in a way that appeals to young people and whether it is written in accessible language.


The drawbacks of this approach from the adults’ perspective

Demand on resources can be substantial for the approach to be effective. The young people involved required support and encouragement from workers, a place to meet regularly and access to telephones, post and the Internet. Whilst young people are far well placed to assess the information needs of their peers, no group can be expected to be 100% representative of all young people in their area.


What information the needs analysis gave

In particular the young women from the project wanted more information on drink spiking- the drugs involved, their effects and how to protect themselves. They also wanted information on units of alcohol, mixing drinks and the different effects of alcohol on men and women. They found that very little information was available at all on these areas and the available information was either not targeted at young people or written in inaccessible language.


How this influenced the drug education

Both the education the young women received and the information they ultimately went on to produce were focussed specifically on the issues raised by young people, namely on the drugs involved in drink spiking, their effects and how to protect themselves. The content of the education was directly determined by the young women themselves.


The experiences of the young women

The young mums decided to undergo the training and do the bulk of the design and development work over a residential weekend.  

“We wanted a friendly and relaxed environment”

They chose and booked the venue and then drew up a brief of their training requirements which they gave to NECA (North East Council for Addiction) who facilitated the weekend.

“We made our own programme, we knew what we wanted”


“They got our views, corrected us sometimes and told us more”

Young person-centred approach

A young person-centred approach was critical to the success of the project. The young women gained a sense of empowerment by owning and leading the project, they also developed a whole range of skills from making bookings to teamwork and discussion skills right the way to how to give advice and information.


“They were all our ideas”


“It was our project, we owned it”

Not only was a young person-centred approach crucial in terms of process, it was also critical in terms of outcome. It was felt from the beginning that young people would best know the knowledge gaps of other young people and that young people would respond best to information and advice from their peers.

“They might listen to people our age”


Points of good practice

The strengths of this case study are that the young women shaped the project through building on their own information needs to carry out research which led to their producing information for their peers. This is a good example of young people taking responsibility and producing practical outcomes which could also be of benefit to others.


Greenfields School Community and Arts College. Key Stage 3 and 4


Greenfields School is a large school in a relatively deprived area of Durham. Whilst it does not have a particular drug problem, it is part of a community where drug use is not uncommon and many pupils, if not drug users themselves, come from an environment where drug use is relatively commonplace. Unfortunately we were not able to consult with the young people involved as they have since moved on from the school.


Involving young people in drug policy review

The school has an active school council which has always been involved in reviewing school policies. When it came to the school’s drug policy review, they naturally expected to be involved.


The item was put on the agenda at a school council meeting and members given copies of the policy to be reviewed. The school PSHCE Co-ordinator was also there should any point have needed clarification.


School Council members expressed the view that any pupil caught in possession of drugs should not be excluded as they felt they would be further put at risk. As a result, the school amended the policy and agreed that anyone found in possession would be excluded only whilst the matter was being investigated and would then be brought back into the school and given appropriate support.


Should there have been any dispute between council members and school staff over the policy, the matter would have been brought to the school governors for arbitration. The governors have all had drug training and school council members regularly attend governors’ meetings.


Joined-up policies

The school recognises that for its drug policies to have any real effect the messages have to be backed up throughout the whole of the school and the wider community.


It has ensured that its drug incident policy, its drug education policy and its behaviour policy are aligned and consistent. It has also sent the policies out to parents and developed and encouraged a strong relationship between pupils and the local Community Police Officer.


The young people are getting the same messages throughout the whole of the school, at home and when out in the community.


Mary Magdalene Primary School, Seaham. Key Stage 2


The school ran a two-day intensive drug education programme, ‘What’s Going On?’ with Key Stage 2 pupils. Following a ground rules session a needs analysis was carried out. This was followed by a ‘ladder of risk’ exercise designed to evaluate the knowledge base of pupils and practice risk analysis. Pupils’ were then given scenarios to work on to assess the risk in terms of the drugs involved, the situation and the people present. They then developed these scenarios into drama sketches which were filmed, made into a DVD and made available to other schools in the county to use prompt discussion around drugs.


Needs analysis

‘What’s going on’ used the same method of analysing the needs of the children as ‘On Track’, this time with older Key Stage 2 pupils. The children were told the story of Cheryl, who finds a bag with drugs inside it. They then drew pictures and wrote about what they had drawn in response to a series of questions designed to analyse their current awareness of, and attitudes to, drugs, drug users and drug safety. The questions were:


  • What was in the bag?
  • Who lost the bag (what sort of person)?
  • What was the person going to do with the bag?
  • What did Cheryl do with the bag?
  • What would you have done if you had found it?
  • Can a drug be good for you or help you?
  • Can a drug be bad for you or hurt you?

Their written responses were then analysed and discussion was held to explore some of them further.


The benefits of this approach from the adults’ perspective

The children identify different substances as ‘drugs’ depending on their knowledge, experience and development. It identifies pupils’ knowledge levels, and their attitudes to a number of drug issues, and enables teachers to plan a relevant programme in response to the needs emerging from the activity. For example, stereotypes, myths and misconceptions can be identified and addressed.


What information the needs analysis gave

Analysis of the information elicited from the research revealed that ‘pills’ were mentioned in general with some specific reference to ecstasy. There was also some eagerness on the part of the children to talk about ecstasy. Needles also featured quite heavily and there was lots of talk about the responsibilities of users. Calpol was identified by the children and one child also revealed that he was aware of cannabis being grown in a loft.


How this influenced the drug education

The information was used to focus on which substances and issues needed to be addressed in the drug education.‘ladder of risk’ exercise focussed on some of these but also included alcohol and tobacco as there was some ambiguity as to whether the children were aware of their effects or that they were drugs. Discussion was held around amphetamines and ecstasy ‘pills’ and the drama scenario focussed on a child who took a ‘pill’ but who died through being out of control and hit by a car, not through the substance itself.


Pupil’s experiences of the needs analysis

“When we met Les we told him what we knew”

“We had time to discuss what we knew”

“Everybody listened to what we had to say”

“We discussed what we knew about drugs and Les listened to us”

“We had time to think and discuss our knowledge”

“I thought it was an excellent way of re-stating what we already knew”

“It helped us to think more and it was interesting”

It was a good story line”

“I thought it was good because you can learn what other people know”

“It helped us to think about the situation more”

Points of good practice

Drama was used to try out the skills needed to manage risky situations. A DVD of the drama scenarios was made and sent to all schools in the area for them to use as discussion points for their PSHCE lessons.



Mentor UK Young People’s Reference Group


The following example of good practice was submitted by MentorUK, a member of the Drug Education Forum:




Mentor UK established a Youth Involvement Project to consult young people about substance misuse prevention issues.  As part of this project a Young People’s Reference Group of twenty three young people from around England and Wales was set-up to advise on issues that are relevant to drug prevention work with young people. 15 females and eight males between the ages of 14 and 19 took part from around England and Wales. They were identified as possibly at risk of substance misuse associated, for example, with truancy, exclusion and in, or leaving, public care. They worked with six support workers and two actors specialising in issue-based work with young people.


  • The activities included team building and developing ground rules, debating skills which would be of use as member of the Young People’s Reference Group, the basics of drug prevention and an accreditation scheme which they will use to accredit their involvement in the project.
  • To plan for the next meeting of the Young People’s Reference Group.
  • To plan activities to complete before the next meeting of the Young People’s Reference Group.


Activities that the young people participated in during the meeting


Team building

The young people took part in a variety of drama activities facilitated by Arc Theatre facilitators, including games to learn one another’s names and games to build trust and team work amongst the group.



The young people participated in several sessions in which they received training and practice in skills which will be of use as a members of the Young People’s Reference Group.  For example they took part in a pretend Newsnight debate about a proposed UK wide ban on chocolate (a make-believe addictive and harmful substance).  The young people split into four groups, and each group prepared to argue a particular case for/against such a chocolate ban.  Arc Theatre staff then facilitated this debate by acting as a Newsnight presenter and the Health Minister (a guest) and fielding questions from the young people, who pretended to be members of the public.  This session gave the young people practice engaging in debate and expressing their opinions about a so called ‘harmful substance’.


Introduction to key principles of drug prevention

The young people were given a brief introductory talk, describing drug prevention work and key principles on which it is based.  They then worked together to generate a list of what they perceived to be key risk and protective factors for substance misuse. This session enabled the young people to begin to understand the basic principles on which drug prevention work is based as well as practicing brainstorming and expressing views.


Setting ground rules for the group

The young people worked in small groups to brainstorm rules that they felt it was important for the young people and staff to abide by in order for the group to work successfully together.  They then came together as a whole group to produce a ‘code of conduct’ consisting of five rules as to how the Reference Group will work together.


Introduction to the Youth Achievement Awards

The young people received a brief introduction to the Youth Achievement Awards.


Needs analysis

The young people were shown a recent article in the Times about the possible introduction of random drug testing in all English secondary schools.  They gave their individual views and arguments for and against this, and then worked as a group to summarise five of their key concerns about the possible introduction of random drug testing in schools.  These five key were delivered to the Secretary of State for Education and the Times newspaper.


Benefits of this approach

  • The young people began to work very well together as a group although they were of varying ages and backgrounds. 
  • The young people engaged in activities with a great deal of enthusiasm and interest. 
  • The young people appeared to appreciate the opportunity to express opinions and have input into issues that affect young people, such as drug prevention.
  • The young people summarised five of their key concerns about the possible introduction of random drug testing in all English Secondary Schools, which were then highlighted in a letter sent on their behalf to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills and the Times newspaper. 
  • Individually, several of the young people made a great deal of personal progress in terms of building confidence and asserting their views.


Tacade’s Alcoshots


Tacade, also a member of the Drug Education Forum, involved young people in the development of a health promotion resource.

Alcoshots is a pack of twelve photographs of young people in alcohol related situations. All of the photographs have trigger questions and challenges to stimulate discussion and actions around the issues, plus fact sheets on a range of alcohol related topics. The pack also contains a booklet for the facilitator. The pack is designed for use with young people aged 14 to 19 in formal and informal educational settings. The materials aim to enable young people to increase their knowledge and understanding, explore attitudes and values about alcohol and practise personal and social skills.


Process of developing Alcoshots

Young people were very actively involved in the developed of the pack. Tacade, the developers of the resources worked in partnership with a local youth project based on an inner city housing estate in the city of Leicester. With the support of local youth workers a group of young people met three times a week, for two and a half hours per session over a three week period. The young people learnt about alcohol and shared their ideas about the issues facing young people in relation to alcohol. The young people were particularly interested in first aid and therefore had a special training session on this subject. In sessions four and five the young people began to develop the issues that would be addressed within the pack and the format of how the photos might be set up, using sketches and disposable cameras to make trial shots. In session six the young people presented and discussed their ideas and rough shots with the photographers. Session seven and eight were used to take the shots with the young people taking in turn to direct and co-ordinate each scenario. The final session involved the young people in looking at all the photographs and making choices about which shots were to be used in the pack.


Once a draft version of the pack was produced it was trialled in a variety of different settings such as schools and youth projects. Teachers and youth workers tried out the activities with the young people and had a discussion about what worked well, what did not work very well and what needed to be improved. This information was used to make final adaptations before the pack was printed.


Learning from the process

Things don’t always go smoothly!


  • It was important to have a clear and detailed operational plan and to keep the young people informed about the parameters to the project so that they knew what they could have influence over and what was not negotiable.
  • Working with an established youth project helped encourage young people to get involved, they felt comfortable and confident in the space and with the workers involved. Once the project was completed the alcohol education work would continue on a more informal basis because the youth workers had received training about alcohol education.
  • It was important to get parental consent for young people under 18 to be involved in the project.
  • The young people were offered a reward for their time, energy and commitment, the reward was a trip to an education/adventure park.
  • During first session, original plan had to be completely changed as young people didn’t arrive on time – it turned into a session to ‘sell’ the project to the young people; so the operational plan had to be flexible.
  • There were practical difficulties with the space available, on occasions there were lots of interruptions from other activities in the centre but given the commitment by the staff at the centre they were willing to make changes to ensure the project continued without further interruptions. 



The project was funded by the Alcohol Education Research Council (AERC) as was an independent evaluation of the resource. The evaluation found that: the Alcoshots pack combines several learning styles. It proved highly successful in engaging both boys and girls. The girls in the sample enjoyed the free discussion of ideas and social problems; the boys relished the competitive ‘fact-finding’ exercises.


  • Nearly a quarter of the pupils indicated that they would change their drinking behaviour as a result of the Alcoshots materials.
  • After the activities a significant number of pupils retained new factual evidence about the effects of alcohol and practical safety procedures to treat victims of alcohol poisoning.
  • Attitudes towards consuming alcohol and its effects were demonstrated to be less’ extreme’ as a result of the activities, indicating that the pupils were reflecting and possibly moderating their attitudes about the consumption and effects of alcohol.


All the adults involved in all our case studies wanted to enable the children and young people to influence the drug education they received and in some cases to plan the content of that education.  Where they had gone on to consult young people about school drug policy they had found the experience helpful to the school and the young people. 


It was also clear that the children and young people we spoke to in the course of this research had been (and felt that they had been) able to describe their knowledge and understanding of drugs and the issues they wanted to tackle and felt they had been listened to by the adults who provided their education.


The different case studies illustrate different degrees of participation, although all had some form of adult involvement, whether as facilitator, or as initiator. 


The case studies in this report used their needs assessment to find out where each individual was at and to use this to create a picture of the needs of the group as a whole. The chosen methodology therefore needs to allow for each participant to have his or her say. In practice this means either providing an activity which can be done individually or by creating a feeling of trust and co-operation between participants so that they are able to voice their opinions in a group setting.


Whilst fostering good group dynamics is important, in some settings it is unrealistic to expect participants to feel comfortable speaking openly about their personal experiences of drugs. Asking participants to openly say what they already knew about alcohol was applicable with the Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project as they were sufficiently relaxed, both around each other and in the project itself, to answer openly. This is less relevant for primary age children when planning a universal curriculum programme, although some responses to the story-based Draw and Write technique can evince revealing information about local drug use, including the names of drug users and suppliers!


The age and ability of participants will obviously also play a critical part in how their needs are assessed and to what extent they understand the purpose of the exercise. In the case studies in this report, participants’ explicit understanding of the role and impact of the needs assessment varied from fully understanding what they were doing, why they were doing it and the impact it would have on provision, to understanding that their opinions were being sought by the teacher to simply completing an interesting task or classroom activity. In all cases, however, appropriate open-ended methods were employed which allowed participants to respond and express themselves.


Since drug education needs to provide opportunities for skills development, knowledge acquisition and attitude development, needs assessments  should be designed to reveal children and young people’s current stage of development  in all three key areas. Time must be given to allow the person delivering the education to properly analyse and reflect on their findings before planning accordingly. 


The experience of Greenfields School has shown the value of including children and young people in policy design. Not only did the school benefit from pupils’ contributions by having a more workable policy, but also the whole school community benefited by having the policy more widely understood and ‘owned’ by the people it affected.


By producing this short report we hope that we can encourage others to develop ways of finding out what children and young people know about drugs and which drugs they want to become better educated about.  We would like more children and young people to find ways of contributing to drug policies so that they are more effective.




To make the most out of your consultation with children and young people it is worth considering the following points:


  • It must be genuine. This means that the findings are used and feed into the drug education or policy in a clear way.
  • Tell participants what influence the consultation will have before carrying it out. Don’t tell them they will be able to influence more than they can.
  • Consider how power dynamics may influence the scope of the consultation. People talk most freely about themselves and their experiences when they are relaxed and comfortable in their environment and group. Where the consultation takes place, who facilitates it and the group they are in will all affect how much information participants are willing to give.
  • Put aside sufficient time, both for the consultation itself and, critically, time to analyse findings and incorporate them into your plan. This means that a finalised plan for the exact content of the drug education will not be possible until after the consultation.
  • The methodology used and the questions asked must be appropriate to the age and abilities of the group. It is important that children and young people be given a variety of ways to give their opinion. It is essential that those with short attention spans, challenging behaviour or low levels of literacy are fully included and given necessary support and encouragement to engage as it is very often these people who most benefit from drug education.


Drug education is a vital element in drug prevention work with young people and these examples show how children and young people of different ages and circumstances can contribute to the development of relevant drug education programmes and projects. 


The Drug Education Forum would like to see more examples of children and young people taking an active part in their learning about drugs.  The Forum hopes that these examples give those who work with children and young people confidence that they can engage children and young people and that the experience of doing so will improve their provision.




  • Drugs: guidance for schools, DfES, 2004
  • Be aware: Young people, alcohol and other drugs, National Children’s Bureau, 2004
  • Is That Legal; The Impact of Drugs: Guidance for Schools – a local survey, Drug Education Forum 2005
  • Drug Education in Schools, Ofsted, 2005
  • Treseder, P.Save the Children, 1997
  • Hart, R. Children’s participation: From tokenism to citizenship, UNICEF 1992


Contact information


For more information about Dynamix Ltd visit their website at


For further information regarding the case study at Crescent Primary School, Mansfield, contact:

Anne Trout, Substance Use Consultant, Nottinghamshire County Council, 01623 476906, [email protected]


For further information regarding the Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project case study contact:

Alyson Embleton, Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project, 0191 477 7759, [email protected]

Lisa Wood, North East Council for Addiction (NECA), 0191 490 1045, [email protected]


For further information regarding the Greenfields School Community and Arts College case study contact:

Patrick Hargreaves, Durham County Council Education Drugs & Alcohol Adviser, 0191 370 6403, [email protected]

Jim Ward, PSHCE Co-ordinator, Greenfields School


For further information regarding the Mary Magdalene Primary School, Seaham case study, contact:

Patrick Hargreaves, Durham County Council Education Drugs & Alcohol Adviser, 0191 370 6403, [email protected]

Les Watts, Drama Consultant, 07769 946668, [email protected]


For further information on Mentor UK’s Young People’s Reference Group, contact


Further details about Tacade’s Alcoshots, and copies of the pack, can be obtained from Tacade, Old Exchange Buildings, 6 St Ann’s Passage, King Street, Manchester M2 6AD. Telephone +44 (0) 161 836 6850. Email: [email protected]Website: