Effectiveness of School-Based Life-Skills and Alcohol Education Programmes: A Review of the Literature

Kerry Martin, Julie Nelson, Sarah Lynch

25 September 2013

NFER has undertaken a review of UK and international academic literature, on behalf of Alcohol Research UK, to explore: the impact of school-based alcohol education/life-skills programmes (on young people’s knowledge of alcohol, decision-making skills, and alcohol-related behaviour), which programmes offer the greatest value for money, and the processes that facilitate or inhibit the implementation, sustainability and impact of alcohol education/life-skills programmes.

Key Findings

  • There is mixed evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol education and life-skills programmes.
  • The most substantial evidence was found in relation to pupils’ enhanced knowledge and understanding of alcohol-related issues.
  • There is a degree of evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol education and life-skills programmes in reducing the frequency of alcohol consumption and episodes of drunkenness among school-aged children.
  • There is only limited evidence of programmes having a positive impact on school-aged children’s attitudes, decision-making abilities and confidence and assertiveness skills.
  • Very few studies investigate the cost benefits of programmes.
  • Factors that help to facilitate the success of alcohol and life-skills programs include:
  • adopting a good balance between knowledge building, skills development, and sensitivity to factors influencing student attitudes and behaviours
  • giving careful consideration to pedagogy, so that it is age appropriate, delivered by the right people with the right skills (such as expert professionals and/or specialist school staff) and, where possible, is interactive and open
  • utilising and drawing on the support of parents/carers as protective agents for young people wherever possible.
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