Drinkaware was delighted to be invited by the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to submit a written submission regarding Leaving Certificate reform. It is both positive and important that the Committee is looking at Leaving Cert reform and that ‘Access, Equality and Well-Being Supports’ are key areas in this review.
As the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland and delay the age of first drink, Drinkaware believes that it is imperative that reform of the Leaving Cert includes a specific focus on wellbeing. This is especially important considering the emerging data on Ireland’s young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on their educational and personal experiences.
Drinkaware’s submission cites research that defines effective education as one that equips students with the necessary intellectual, personal and social life-skills for adulthood. Students, it contends, need to leave school with the ability to challenge, to think critically, to form opinions, and to develop and sustain emotional resilience, so they can be the capable adults of tomorrow.
Drinkaware’s position and submission is based on its experiences of delivering a life skills-centered alcohol education programme in secondary schools since 2017. Based on and informed by evidence and best practice, Drinkaware’s Alcohol Education Programme, has been independently evaluated by Maynooth University over a three-year period and serves as a case-in-point for the submission.
Furthermore, in addition to recommending that any reform discussions take note of the critical long-term value and importance of wellbeing supports, the submission offers Drinkaware’s programme as an example of effective wellbeing supports in practice, and its consideration a valuable opportunity for shared learning and experiences.
As the measurable output of our senior cycle education, Drinkaware believes the Leaving Certificate must be critiqued in terms of its holistic impact on the lives of the students it serves. Drinkaware is committed to an impact and evidence-centric approach, and the use of its research assets and resources are at the disposal of the Committee and all organisations and stakeholders working to support young people’s wellbeing, particularly with regard to addressing underage drinking.
Commenting on their submission Drinkaware CEO Sheena Horgan stated
“Drinkaware welcomed the Oireachtas Education Committees request to our charity, which works to prevent alcohol misuse, to be part of their Leaving Cert review. The stated aim of the Senior Cycle is to promote intellectual, personal and social development. In its current guise, the Leaving Cert is the intellectual output of the Senior Cycle, but intellectual ability without personal and social development does not adequately prepare our young people for the challenges they will face beyond school. At Drinkaware we hope the Oireachtas Committee’s Report will be a positive step to recognising the role the Leaving Cert can play in the future not just in developing our young people intellectually but also preparing them for the social challenges they face, such as avoiding alcohol misuse.”