Home > Blueprint drugs education: findings from an evaluation.

Keane, Martin (2010) Blueprint drugs education: findings from an evaluation. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 32, Winter 2009, p. 19.

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The Blueprint drugs education programme is an evidence-based, multi-component programme that was piloted in 23 schools in England during the spring terms of 2004 and 2005. The programme provided drug education lessons to children in Year 7 (when they were aged 11) and Year 8, complemented by four additional components: parents, media, health policy and community. The programme aimed to equip pupils with the knowledge and experience necessary to make informed choices about drug use. This article summarises the main findings from the responses of pupils and parents to the programme and the results of a prevalence survey that measured changes in behaviour and attitudes of pupils towards substance use.1  

The evaluation
Pupils in the 23 schools completed a prevalence survey, which measured their attitudes and behaviours in relation to drug use, and an impact survey, which measured their reaction to the Blueprint programme. Parents or carers completed a survey which examined their awareness and opinions of Blueprint. A smaller sample of pupils from six local schools who received drugs education through Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education classes was surveyed using some of the same measures used to assess the Blueprint pupils. Findings from this smaller sample are presented to provide context to the work; these schools do not act as a comparison group to the Blueprint schools.
Pupils’ and parents’ responses to Blueprint
·       The vast majority of Blueprint pupils reported that the lessons were an important source of information about drugs.
·       Pupils enjoyed the format of the lessons, in particular the active teaching methods, such as role play.
·       Pupils learnt some of the skills needed to deal with situations in which they might be offered drugs.
·       Pupils demonstrated good recall of drug knowledge.
·       Parents approved of their children being taught about drugs at school.
·       The Blueprint materials format was effective in engaging some parents in drug education and the parents who took part felt that the material increased their knowledge and helped them talk to their children about drugs. Overall, it was difficult to engage parents with the programme.
Prevalence, attitudes, and drug-use norms
·       Among Blueprint pupils, prevalence of smoking, drinking and drug use increased between Year 7 and Year 10.
·       A higher level of drug taking was associated with previous use, truancy and exclusion.
·       Many pupils overestimated the number of their peers who smoked and drank alcohol; fewer overestimated the number who used drugs.
·       The perception by pupils of a high prevalence rate of drug use, smoking and alcohol use among their peers was associated with truancy, exclusion, being older and being a girl.
·       Perceived acceptability of smoking, drinking alcohol and drug use increased between Year 7 and Year 10. Drinking alcohol was considered more acceptable than smoking or taking drugs.
Findings from local school data
·       Pupils from local schools were positive about drug education they received as part of PSHE lessons.
·       Almost half of pupils cited PSHE lessons on drug education as important sources of information, and the content and delivery of lessons were rated highly.
·       Pupils demonstrated high recall of drug knowledge.
·       Prevalence of smoking, drinking and drug use increased between Year 7 and Year 10.
·       Parents approved of their children receiving drugs education at school.
According to the evaluation team, ‘The original design of the Blueprint evaluation was not sufficiently robust to allow an evaluation of impact and outcomes, and consequently the evaluation did not draw any conclusions on the efficacy of Blueprint in comparison to existing drug education programmes.2 ... Instead, it was decided that the implementation of the programme would be the main focus of the evaluation, and that the ratio of 23 Blueprint schools and six local schools would be kept so that large-scale implementation could be assessed.’ While it was still planned to draw some comparisons between the two samples, ‘academic and statistical reviews concluded that to present the data in this way would be misleading, given that the sample sizes are not sufficient to detect real differences between the groups’. Instead, findings from the six local schools were presented to provide context to the work; these schools did not act as a comparison group to the Blueprint schools.
1. Blueprint Evaluation Team (2009) Blueprint drugs education: the responses of pupils and parents to the programme. London: Home Office. www.ism.stir.ac.uk/pdf_docs/Blueprint/finalreport.pdf
2. Two additional reports of the Blueprint evaluation, the delivery and practitioner reports, were released in November 2007 and are available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/

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