Maynooth University programme evaluation

Research plays a critical strategic role in Drinkaware and our work is subject to robust independent evaluation. This ensures each programme we deliver and every resource we produce is evidence-informed and has the potential to facilitate behaviour change so we can achieve our public health goals.

The final of a three-year longitudinal evaluation of Drinkaware’s junior cycle Alcohol Education Programme was completed in 2020, 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. The final report will be published in 2021.

The objectives of this mixed methods study are to:

  • Asses the nature, extent and experience of alcohol use amongst a sample of junior cycle students in post-primary schools throughout Ireland.
  • Investigate attitudes and beliefs towards, and knowledge of, alcohol amongst the students.
  • Assess the perceived effectiveness, experience and acceptability of the programme in the school setting amongst bother students and teachers.

Key findings among students

Following the evaluation of years one and two, three key indicators on attitudes, behaviour and future intent were found among students:

Increased knowledge of alcohol harms and consequences

  • By the end of year two, students were three-times more likely to report knowing the facts about alcohol (10% pre-programme in 2018, 30% in year two).
  • Students’ knowledge of alcohol consequences and harms increased, specifically knowledge of its impact on mental health (+20%), physical health (+15%), and the consequences of underage drinking (+12%).

Positive behaviour and behavioural intent regarding abstinence

  • The findings show a stability among students who reported that they do not drink alcohol at all – 60% pre-programme vs 59% in year two.
  • Among these students, those who reported having ‘no interest or intention of drinking’ has increased to 47% from 30% pre-programme.
  • Students who stated an intention to delay drinking for as long as possible rose marginally to 28% vs 25% pre-programme.
  • However, a small but increasing proportion of the 40% who indicated at baseline that, at some stage, they had consumed alcohol, appear to be engaged in more frequent and potentially harmful drinking at year two (e.g. consuming more drinks in one sitting). This group was also beginning to develop less healthy attitudes.

Ease of access and facilitation at home continues to accommodate underage alcohol use

  • Of the students who had consumed alcohol, the largest proportion (57%) had their first drink either at their own, or someone else’s house, supporting findings from the most recent HBSC report and highlighting the role of parents and other significant adults as primary influencers.

Teachers’ experience of the programme

  • 90% of teachers felt there is a strong need in schools for a programme such as the AEP (compared to 81% in year one)
  • 98% of teachers believed the programme to be ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’ (an increase from 88% in year one)
  • 96% of teachers thought the training provided by Drinkaware was ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’ (vs 84% in year one)

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