We’re delighted to have got through the first application stage for Phase Two of the government’s NIHR Innovation Fund, to continue working with Middlesex University to evaluate our drug education programme in schools across England.
As part of this application process we’ve been reviewing Phase One, and wanted to share some of the valuable insights young people gave us in focus groups this year, and some of the overall findings.
Data collected confirmed that the DSMF programme was well received, and adjustments were made to the lesson plans, guidelines for teachers and information for parents in response to feedback. The programme theory was elaborated, clarifying context/mechanism/outputs for each programme component, a behaviour change model was developed, along with an evaluation framework for Phase 2.
Feedback from surveys and focus groups highlighted the importance for pupils of age-appropriateness, relevance and interactivity: “It wasn’t like a lesson, it was more of a discussion of seeing how we could apply this information that was being given to us and what was our personal opinions on it.” (Pupil).
The storytelling element of the programme was valued by parents, pupils and teachers, as it made the drug education content more relatable: “I think a lot of the time when you got told all these anecdotes about people using drugs and it going wrong, it doesn’t feel quite real. But like seeing something really real, like he was a real person…” (Pupil) “It seemed quite personal versus just looking at loads of stats and stuff. I then feel like it was relatable…” (Parent)
Parental involvement was seen as important by teachers and pupils as well as the parents themselves: “The children want to talk about it as well, but they also feel awkward, so if they know that their parents have learnt stuff it will make them feel easier to open up.” (Pupil) “I had conversations with my son, you know after that presentation, saying you know I just need you to be honest…Then it came out with a massive conversation about what he had done, what his friends had done…” (Parent) “A parent workshop, I think, it just helps the triangulation of teacher, student, parent and we are all working together for the same outcome, to keep the children safe.” (Teacher)
We’re so pleased to have such a strong working partnership with the Drug and Alcohol Research Centre team at Middlesex University, and for Phase 2 we’ve broadened the research team to bring in additional specialisms. Nine very different schools across England have committed to having a full programme of DSM Foundation drug education for their 13-15 year old pupils, if we get Phase 2 funding, so we can evaluate this over a year. This will be so incredibly valuable not only to us, but hopefully to add to the evidence base of what works in drug education.