Can't see images? Click here...

The 11 principles of delivering effective and enjoyable alcohol education for your school or organisation

The 11 principles of effective preventative health education have been mapped by The PSHE Association based on looking at lots of research on school programmes that reduce students’ risk taking. These principles are relevant to all PSHE topics but each one is carefully built into the Alcohol Education Trust’s  Talk about Alcohol programme. So to ensure you are ahead of the game if PSHE does become statutory -let’s take a look at them one by one:

1) A whole-school approach including multicomponent interventions

A whole-school approach to preventative education ensures that the curriculum, school policies, pastoral support and the school ethos complement each other to create an environment that helps to prevent negative behaviours.

This includes: involving parents as well as staff and governors. If you’d like guidance on your school’s alcohol policy, there is good advice to be found here:  We find involving parents/carers the hardest part of our work, but we know that if you can engage parents via school around boundary setting, being good role models and knowing what their children are up to it really makes a difference. Please email for tips on what makes a successful well attended event and to organise for us to come to your school.

2) Varied teaching styles addressing a range of factors which includes a skills based approach of active pupil participation working in small groups and building knowledge and awareness

Active skills based learning

Researchers have identified the need to use an ‘array of interventions’, ‘multiple activities’ and ‘varied teaching methods’ to address the full range of risk and protective factors. Active skills based leaning means ‘ involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing!’ such as:

-          Rehearsing real decisions

-          Role play of life mimicking situations and resilience strategies

-          Small group work and discussions

-          Using interactive technology

-          Use of team games

-          Building social competence skills

-          Emphasising positive goals and decisions

Peer mentoring has been found to have negative effects.

You need look no further for the games and activities, worksheets and ideas on www.alcoholeducationtrust .org to fulfill all of the above! We don’t involve peer mentoring due to the negative evidence from researchers.

Psycho-social aspects and normative education

Psycho-social aspects of safety are important and include: developing confidence, resilience, self-esteem and self-efficacy – as well as being able to discuss and challenge perceived risks, attitudes, values and norms. Challenging norms around alcohol is based on the fact that most students, parents/carers and staff vastly overestimate the number of teenagers drinking and getting drunk. A normative approach  actively promotes positive social norms ( i.e. that 6 in 10 11-15 year olds do not drink and 8 in 10 18 – 24 year olds go out to have a good time and not to get drunk) rather than focusing on extremes of behaviour and scare tactics. You will find some brilliant quizzes and activities to test pupils perceptions and knowledge on


3) Appropriate lessons for the pupils’ age, ability and maturity

When surveying pupils on alcohol education received, a common response is that it is ‘repetitive and boring’. The lessons should change as the children get older and move to a more harm minimisation approach. You should assess their needs before you begin and start early enough. Year 8, or age 13 is the perfect ‘tipping point’ for the Talk about Alcohol programme. Transition is an important time for a focus on risk taking either from primary to secondary, to sixth form and to leaving school. Planning should be progressive, with a sequenced order per topic as children move through year groups that build spirals of learning. Both in our teacher workbook which you can download via and online in the teacher area of  Here you will find different resources according to the age and ability of your students, as well as categorised by subject, so you can choose what is most suitable for the children.

Particular attention should be made to children with SEN who learn better through role play and rehearsing life situations.

The AET have developed the enhanced Talk about Alcohol suite of resources which includes 8 bespoke lessons and 60 activity cards for children with SEN.  The picture and scenario based activities allow vulnerable children to rehearse real life situations and how they can prepare themselves for social situations or threatening circumstances.   

Designed for a whole class approach as well as for use in small groups, this resource has everything a school will need to deliver alcohol education to a range of pupil needs in school. It is available via our store here: .

4) Learning which is inclusive of difference and socio-culturally relevant

Researchers note the importance of ensuring that prevention education programmes are relevant to the communities in which they are delivered. This includes diversity in relation to culture, ethnicity, faith, disability, sexuality and gender identity. The Talk about Alcohol programme is evidenced (NFER 2011-13) to be equally effective for ethnic minorities and in areas of high deprivation. Visit

5) Well-trained teachers

A number of researchers note that programmes are more effective when delivered by teachers who have access to ongoing high-quality training and support, and are confident in their role. In addition, teacher training means staff implement programmes as intended, and so they are more likely to be successful.  Research shows teachers’ credibility may be damaged where programmes are seen to be externally imposed as well. 

At the AET we have dedicated regionally based staff to help you implement the talk about alcohol programme.

Please email to arrange. There is an excellent PSHE teaching qualification course run by Roehampton University and Babcock (our CEO has completed this course and thoroughly recommends it) Details about it are here

6) Theory, research based and factual

A theory-based programme accurately identifies risk and protective factors, and is piloted and evaluated. Too often this doesn’t happen and a PSHE programme is just put together and you have no idea whether it will help children learn to stay safe or change their behaviour or not. The Talk about Alcohol programme was carefully piloted/trialled in 300 schools between 2010-11, then refined and adapted before being evaluated among 4000 children in 30 schools over 4 years! It was found by The National Foundation for Education Research to not only significantly delay the age that 13 year olds were choosing to drink, but improved knowledge and engagement with PSHE – so you can use the programme with confidence and be backed with the expertise and skills of our regionally based staff to support you. You can learn more here:

7) A positive approach, avoiding ‘scare tactics’ or confrontational strategies

Researchers note the importance of avoiding attempts to induce fear, shock or guilt – around alcohol it means avoiding the moral tale of ‘this happened to me, so it could happen to you’ or an over focus on the long term health consequences of drinking or horrific tales of accidents and abuse. Children see it too far removed from the reality of their own lives. Studies into the effectiveness of drug and alcohol programmes have shown that attempts to scare pupils are found to be ineffective or even to increase the likelihood of substance misuse. Similarly, studies into targeted programmes to prevent youth offending have found that a focus on negative consequences and ‘harsh realities’ can even increase the likelihood of offending.

This is the core of our work at the AET, we have designed the lessons and activities to allow children to work out for themselves how to make more informed choices, how to look after themselves and each other and to prepare for complex social situations as they get older. 80% of adults drink in the UK and alcohol is seen by many as an integral part of society. We know a just say no or wait until you are older message, or this will happen if approach doesn’t work. The key is to begin education before drinking outside of the home occurs (age 13 is perfect) and to use holistic positive approaches – hopefully you’ve got the message by now!

8) Clear goals and outcomes, and effective monitoring and evaluation

I’m pleased to say with the Talk about Alcohol programme we’ve done this work for you! All you need to do is deliver 4 lessons in Year 8 and 2 top up lessons in Year 9 from 

We recommend you join a local PSHE network or healthy schools network or the health promoting schools network to help you plan other topics for PSHE. At a regional level the South West Health Education Group is brilliant and at national level the PSHE Association  ( is well worth joining.  For evidence and position papers you may wish to visit Mentor Adepis  ( ) .

9) Support from school leadership teams and other authorities

The Department for Education (2015) and Mentor ADEPIS standards (2014) both note the importance of gaining support from the head teacher and the senior management team. Kirby et al. (2007) recommend securing ‘at least minimal support’ from appropriate authorities, which can include regional authorities and community groups. 

10) Community and parent engagement

Programmes are more effective where they encourage the involvement of parents, guardians and the wider community as well as partnership working with other agencies where appropriate. Public Health England guidance (2014) recommends building links between home and school and supporting positive parenting practices – prevention education which operates across multiple settings, beyond school, ensuring that the intervention takes place in multiple areas of a child’s life. We produce a bi – termly parent newsletter, have a dedicated area of our  for parents and carers and will come to your school to join an existing event (preferred ) or will host a dedicated talking to kids about alcohol 1 hour session. Please email Kate to arrange.

11) Intervention must be of adequate length or intensity

Research suggests that it is important for an intervention to have sufficient ‘dosage’ to achieve the desired effects . This consideration must be balanced with the need to ensure that the resources required for the successful implementation of an intervention are consistent with the resources available, including staff time. This must be considered when selecting ‘effective’ programmes, since poorly resourced interventions are less likely to be implemented appropriately. So 6x 45 minute lessons over 2 years from Talk about Alcohol  is evidenced to be a ‘sufficient dosage’ in the evaluation – and so it is not too long or onerous. There are also guidance notes as well as online and phone/email support.    

The PSHE Association have meticulously collated the academic evidence for these 11 principles and you can download the whole paper here:


Facebook Twitter

You received this email because you signed up on our website or at one of our events.