Alcohol Education Programme for junior cycle

The Drinkaware Alcohol Education Programme (AEP) was an evidence-informed eight-week manualised resource for junior cycle students. In line with best practice, we provided training to support teachers to deliver the programme to students as intended. The Drinkaware AEP supported and aligned with the Department of Education’s Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice 2018–2023.  This programme was ceased in early 2023. 

Programme Development

Developed within the context of the Framework for Junior Cycle and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), the programme had a strong focus on wellbeing. The AEP related specifically to four of the statements of learning. Key skills were promoted in each lesson and indicators of wellbeing were a central aspect of the at home tasks.The programme involved a whole-school approach to alcohol education in the context of health and wellbeing. 

The Drinkaware AEP also aligned with the strategic aims of Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – A health-led response to alcohol and drug use in Ireland 2017-2025 (Department of Health). This strategy aims to prevent the early use of alcohol and other drugs among young people by influencing behaviour and challenging social norms and attitudes, and providing targeted interventions aimed at minimising harm for those who have already started to use substances. Education has a crucial role in any multi-faceted approach to achieve positive outcomes relating to health and wellbeing. 

In addition, the resource was developed in line with the following national strategies and frameworks: A Healthy Ireland; A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025; Wellbeing in Post Primary Schools – Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention; and Guidelines on Wellbeing for Junior Cycle. 

Programme evidence & evaluation

Each of the programmes we produced were grounded in evidence and evaluated to safeguard their integrity and efficacy. To inform the development of the AEP teacher manual, Drinkaware commissioned Mark Morgan (2015) Cregan Professor of Education and Psychology at St. Patrick’s College, to undertake a comprehensive research literature review to identify the most effective practices in delivering alcohol education in schools. Read the report recommendations 

The Drinkaware’s Alcohol Education Programme was externally evaluated over a three-year period, independently led by Professor Sinéad McGilloway, Founder and Director of the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research at Maynooth University Department of Psychology, in collaboration with Dr John Weafer of Weafer and Associates. Explore the evaluation findings. 

Programme Aims

This programme aimed to promote awareness among students at post-primary level of the harms of alcohol and to support the development of personal and social skills, which promote independent decision-making about alcohol in the future.It sought to empower young people to develop strategies to resist peer pressure, change behaviours and engage in alternatives to alcohol use to protect health and wellbeing. 

The overall aims of the programme were: 

  • To inform and educate young people about alcohol. 
  • To highlight the risks of drinking alcohol and in particular drinking to excess. 
  • To delay the age at which young people take their first drink. 

The overall objectives of the programme were: 

  • To provide a holistic approach to alcohol education using up-to-date information on alcohol, its effects and influence. 
  • To educate about alcohol, Irish law and the possible consequences of underage purchase, possession and/or consumption of alcohol. 
  • To engage experiential learning activities involving group work. 
  • To create an awareness of influences, including peer approval, and to develop and enhance the students’ skills to resist pressures to drink. 
  • To highlight the relationship between alcohol and health and wellbeing and to discuss healthy alternatives to alcohol consumption. 

Programme outline

The Drinkaware AEP was developed in a spiral manner, where the concepts introduced in Year One were revisited in increasing detail in Year Two and Year Three. 

Based on 40-minute classes, each year contained nine lessons and two additionaloptional lessons to provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their learnings. 

Throughout the programme students were involved in active, reflective, collaborative and inquiry-based learning activities based on Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. Importantly, students also had the opportunity to express and test their own ideas, draw conclusions and share their knowledge. Attentive and respectful listening was encouraged throughout these activities. 

Programme delivery

Best practice indicates that the effective delivery of alcohol education requires teachers to be trained to do so. This is why the AEP manual was available only to teachers who attended our training day. 

This training day consisted of: 

  • One-day AEP Teacher Training with focus on experiential learning and interactive teaching methodologies 
  • One copy of AEP manual per registered teacher 
  • USB stick containing all student worksheets 
  • Input from academic field on alcohol education, research and evaluation. 

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