Home > Peer drugs education programme in Kilkenny wins major European award.

Keane, Martin (2006) Peer drugs education programme in Kilkenny wins major European award. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 19, Autumn 2006, p. 10.

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The European Prevention Prize, an accolade given by the Council of Europe, was presented to Kilkenny’s 421 Peer Drugs Education Programme at a recent awards ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania. The Pompidou Group awards this prize every two years in order to highlight good-quality drug prevention projects that have successfully involved young people in their design and implementation. The Kilkenny initiative, along with a project from Norway, was chosen from 31 entries by a panel that comprised six young people from the Russian Federation, Norway, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and Turkey and experts in the field from the Pompidou Group. The two winners received a trophy, a diploma and prize money of €2,000.

The story of the emergence of the 421 Programme goes back to the year 2003 when a school chaplain in Kilkenny identified the need for an innovative approach to providing drug education in local schools. It was felt that the traditional adult-delivered drug education approach had its limitations, and that it could be strengthened by more active participation of young people themselves in both design and delivery. In response, two drug education workers from the HSE and the local youth service developed what is now the 421 Peer Education Programme.

The overall aim of the 421 initiative is to provide meaningful education to young people on drugs and the main risks associated with their use. The main objective is to introduce peer education by training groups of students to design and deliver drug education in their schools. The 421 initiative trains fourth-year students to design and deliver drugs education to first-year students. The older students are trained over a three-day period by local youth workers and community drug workers from Ossory Youth, and the drugs education officer from the Carlow/Kilkenny HSE substance misuse team. The training includes modules on the following: attitudes to substance misuse, drug facts, signs and symptoms, patterns of drug use, peer education skills, planning a programme and presentation skills. Schools pay a fee of €20 for the training of each student. These students then design their own six-session drugs education programme, which they deliver to the all first-year classes in their school. This is usually done in the context of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) classes.

The 421 Programme has been in existence since 2004.  To date (summer 2006) the programme has trained 92 fourth-year students from four schools in Co Kilkenny. These young people have gone on to provide drugs education to approximately 880 first-year students. The initiative relies extensively on internal evaluations to make changes and respond to issues arising. The whole programme is due to undergo an external evaluation soon. Funds for the evaluation have been secured and an external evaluator is in discussion with the programme team. 

An article in Drugnet Ireland, issue 19 entitled ‘Inequality and the stereotyping of young people’ highlighted two recent pieces of research among young people in Ireland. Devlin1 reported that young people perceived and experienced levels of inequality and disrespect from certain adult groups in society including the gardaí and school teachers, and Lalor and Baird2 highlighted the crucial role that peers play in the everyday lives of young people, particularly as providers of ‘new information’. The article in issue 19 suggests that perhaps it would be wise for adult groups that deliver drug education to young people to reflect on their methods of engagement and give serious thought to training young people themselves in the design and delivery of peer education. The 421 initiative is an excellent example of how this approach can be developed. It will be interesting to assess the effectiveness of this intervention and to see how it is received by its target audience; these questions will receive some attention in the forthcoming external evaluation. Finally, a special word of thanks to Mr Mel Bay from Ossory Youth for providing information on the history and operation of the 421 initiative.

1.    Devlin M (2006) Inequality and the stereotyping of young people. Dublin: The Equality Authority.

2.    Lalor K and Baird K (2006) Our views – Anybody listening? Researching the views and needs of young people in Co Kildare. Kildare: Kildare Youth Services.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Education and training
Issue Title
Issue 19, Autumn 2006
July 2006
Page Range
p. 10
Health Research Board
Issue 19, Autumn 2006
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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