Drugs Education

Making Safer Choices: evidence-based drug and alcohol education 

Making Safer Choices, our evidence-based drug and alcohol education programme for students and parents, incorporates a spiral curriculum of age-appropriate sessions for students in years 7-8, years 9-11 and sixth form, training for staff and workshops for parents and carers. Everything we do is mapped to an international evidence base of what is most effective in drug and alcohol education, and on European standards of good practice, and is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis to ensure it’s all current and relevant and addresses the priority issues for young people. 

PSHE resources for teachers

Planning and resources are available to schools and colleges to deliver effective , interactive and engaging drug and alcohol education as part of PSHE, either in lessons or in shorter, bite-sized form time sessions, for schools where PSHE is no longer timetabled and for sixth forms. Sessions combine age-appropriate information about drugs and alcohol, the effects and risks, and what the law says, with discussion around issues such as different motivations to take drugs or drink to excess, the teenage brain, peer pressure and resilience. Important harm reduction strategies are included, especially for older students. Evidence shows that a more embedded approach, with a longer period of time for students to explore information, reflect on the issues and develop important life skills in context, has the most lasting impact on changed behaviours, and on perceptions of risk and consequence.

Assemblies, talks and workshops - a tailored approach

Assemblies, talks and interactive drug and alcohol education workshops can be delivered by the DSM Foundation team at the start of PSHE lessons and form time sessions, to schools, colleges and community groups within reasonable reach of our South London base. The DSM Foundation team will plan delivery in discussion with key staff, to make sure it meets the needs of students and the priorities of the setting, and fits best around timetables, prior learning and other commitments. We’re as flexible as we can be, and want to plan something that is effective for each individual school, college or community group.

Delivery can be to individual classes or groups, or to whole year groups, and can range from very short, storytelling assemblies, or longer presentations to older students, to repeated workshops on ‘drop-down’ or compressed timetable days, or longer interactive drug education workshops for up to two hours. Sessions are always very interactive, engaging and generally involve chocolate! The focus is on giving students an introduction to the risks and effects of drugs and alcohol, an understanding of the decision-making process, including motivation, peer influence and risk-taking, and equipping them with resilience and harm reduction strategies appropriate to their age. DSMF drug educators are qualified teachers specialised and experienced in drug education.

Dan’s story

The story of Dan is woven into everything we do,. Storytelling has always been a powerful means of communicating an important message, and Dan’s story gives a relevance and reality to the information and life-skills included in the PSHE programme. If possible, Dan’s mum Fiona will visit the school in person to tell her son’s story to students, in a manner appropriate to their age.  This is always moving and has a huge impact on audiences of all ages. This can be in a short assembly slot or a longer talk for older year groups, and can also be included as part of an introductory workshop which Fiona can also deliver, as an experienced teacher and now drugs educator.

“I’m not sure you can fully appreciate the impact you have had, but parents were immediately aware that something had changed in their children’s attitudes towards drugs after your visit to our school”

Mark Waldron, headmaster, Ryde School with Upper Chine, Isle of Wight


Drug and alcohol awareness training for school staff

The DSMF team can deliver training to school staff as part of INSET or staff meetings, to whole staff teams or to specific groups of teachers or support staff. These would be designed to meet the needs of the school, and planned in discussion with the key member of staff organising the session. They would ideally be a minimum of an hour, and preferably up to 1.5 or 2 hours long. Basic drug and alcohol awareness training for teachers and professionals would include:

  • Young people, drugs and alcohol – the context
  • The risks and effects of the most commonly misused substances
  • Motivation for misusing substances
  • Peer pressure, risk taking and the teenage brain
  • Drugs and the law
  • The impact of drugs and alcohol
  • Harm reduction and practical strategies for staying safe
  • Risk factors of dependency and signs of possible substance misuse in students
  • Where to go for information and support

Training and briefings for staff delivering Making Safer Choices

It is recommended that all staff attend a training or shorter briefing session with the DSMF team prior to delivering our PSHE programme. This would cover the background and context of the programme, its content, key underpinning knowledge, good practice in drug and alcohol education, and where to go for further information and support for students.

Making Safer Choices for young people with special needs

We have delivered drug and alcohol education workshops to special needs youth groups for the last two years, and in 2017-18 we have developed and piloted a longer drug and alcohol education programme of planning and resources for students with special educational needs and disabilities, working closely with outstanding special school West Hill in Surrey, and with specialist teachers at Croydon College. Lessons plans, slides and resources are available along with the loan of resource packs, to support these particular groups of young people to keep themselves safe around alcohol and drugs, some of whom can be especially vulnerable to risky behaviours and negative peer influence.

Making Safer Choices for ESOL students

Another vulnerable group of young people with whom we have recently developed resources and workshops are those with limited English, who may be unfamiliar not only with the language used but also with some of the substances they may encounter as young people now living in the UK. We have piloted these in Spring term 2018 with all the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students at Croydon College, some of whom have not long arrived in the UK, and we very much hope this is another area of work we can offer more widely.

Drug and alcohol workshops for parents and carers

Why involve parents and carers?

As schools and colleges are more than aware, parents have a significant influence over their children throughout their teens, and working in partnership with parents is always more effective in changing young people’s understanding, attitudes and behaviour than going alone. Including parents and carers in any drug and alcohol education is essential if students are to be as well-equipped as they can be to stay safe. 

Most parents are acutely conscious that the world their children inhabit is very different from that in which they grew up themselves, but as a parent you don’t know what you don’t know, and often don’t know what you can do to make the difference you know is important. 


These can be delivered in schools, colleges or community settings and involve finding out about:

  • young people’s exposure to drugs and alcohol
  • factors that affect young people’s decisions about drugs and alcohol, including teenage brain development
  • what young people need to know about the risks of drugs and alcohol
  • what it’s useful for parents and carers to know
  • practical suggestions for what they can do to support their children to stay safe
  • where to go for more information and support.

Our Youth Ambassadors come along whenever possible and speak to parents as part of the workshop, giving them valuable insights as young people, and parents always very much appreciate their input. There is always an opportunity to ask questions of DSM Foundation team members and Youth Ambassadors, and resources and information to take away. 

Communication with parents

Letter/email and poster templates can be provided to schools and colleges to inform parents about the nature and content of the information and support available to them, including the workshop and why it is important they attend if they can.

Feedback from parents

In 2016-17 around 400 parents and carers attended DSMF drug and alcohol workshops delivered by Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, with input from Youth Ambassadors wherever possible, who spoke about young people’s environment in relation to drugs, alcohol and peer pressure. Feedback from parents is always extremely positive.

  • 100% of parents reported that the workshop they attended was interesting, useful, relevant and informative
  • 100% of parents reported that they felt better equipped to support their child to make safe choices about drugs (79% definitely, 21% a bit)


What did you find most useful about the session?

“A real-life story from a parents’ perspective. Youth ambassadors’ opinions and stories. Interactive and well-paced. Statistics. Practical advice”

“A sensible breakdown of the risks and some great tips for communicating with my kids”

“Combination of deeply personal testament with factual, practical knowledge and advice”

 “The insight into what drugs are available, how prevalent they are and how important it is to keep communication open on the topic”

“Getting an understanding of the pressures young people are under”

“Giving the kids strategies to cope with different situations”

 “Openness, very well researched, up-to-date”

“The simplicity with which the information was delivered made it easy to absorb”

“Real insight into the effects of drugs and alcohol. Fiona is truly inspirational and her personal experience made you realise the seriousness and how easily it can happen.”

Other comments:

“Such a much-needed workshop to enable parents to feel equipped and able to support their children”

“Very informative but also very pragmatic – this is important”

 “Excellent and moving presentation – many thanks”

“Brilliant – superb to have youth ambassadors”

“Continue the amazing work, Fiona. Your story was very touching and very helpful for me”


You can find more information about our work with schools, colleges and community groups on the website.

Contact us on if you have further questions or would like to make a booking

Dulwich parents May18

Evaluation and impact

Evaluation is essential to ensure our planning, resources and delivery are as effective as they can be, and for us, schools and stakeholders to measure the impact. Students are asked to complete a questionnaire at the start of each programme and an evaluation at the end. These are designed to measure changes to behaviour and to perceptions of risk and the possible consequences of taking drugs and drinking alcohol. We also ask students at longer workshops to complete evaluations which gather immediate feedback and data on impact.


Student workshop feedback 2016-17

It provided me with relevant information


It tackled misconceptions about substance misuse


It changed how I see the risks and consequences of using drugs


It helped me think about ways to tackle peer pressure


The resources I’ve been given will be useful


I feel more able to my parents, carers or teachers about drugs



Quality Mark for providers of drug and alcohol education

In 2016 the DSM Foundation was asked by Mentor UK / ADEPIS to take part in a government-funded pilot of a Quality Mark for providers of drug and alcohol education. The criteria for this have been based on international standards of effective practice in drug and alcohol education, and this was an incredibly useful process for us, enabling us to ensure our drug and alcohol work is the best it can be. A comprehensive assessment grid developed by Mentor ADEPIS, which will be finalised and available for use from autumn 2017, and the DSM Foundation will be applying for this new quality mark in the first cohort.

University of Middlesex academic evaluation

In June 2017, the DSM Foundation became an Associate of the University of Middlesex Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, and from September 2017 we have begun working with them on a rigorous, academic evaluation of our drug and alcohol education programme. This will take place over the next few years, and enable us to ensure that the work we do is as effective as it can be in changing young people’s perception of risk and consequence of drugs and alcohol, and in changing their behaviour, where necessary, to keep them safe.


Feedback from teachers, students and parents has been very positive. Students are more aware of the risks and how to make choices to keep themselves and their friends safe. One wrote, "I know more about the risks of taking drugs and that even if other people take drugs and they're fine it doesn't mean you will be fine". Many of the students felt that hearing the story of Dan and the impact on his family and friends was the best part of the programme, because it "made it real". Some of the students said the lesson on peer pressure was the best part, "because at our age peer pressure is used way too much and it showed how to get out of the situation." 

Making Safer Choices: 2017-18

The Foundation is now working with students, teachers, parents and carers in around 170 schools and colleges, across twenty-four London boroughs and increasingly further afield. These include academies, faith schools, independent schools and grammar schools, as well as FE colleges, commuity youth groups and faith groups. Our reach continues to grow rapidly, almost entirely through word of mouth and recommendation, and every week we are contacted by more people asking us to work with their school, college or community.  



We have worked or are working with the following Universities, schools, colleges and community groups:

Alexandra Park School, Haringey

Alleyn's School, Dulwich

Anstee Bridge, Kingston

Archbishop Tenison’s CE High, Croydon

Ark All Saints Academy, Camberwell

Barnardo's Moving Forward project, Horsham

Barnardo's Moving Forward project, Surrey

Barnhill School, Hillingdon

Belvedere Junior School, Belvedere 

Blackfen School for Girls, Bexley

Bishop Justus CE School, Bromley 

BRIT School, Croydon

Broadmead Primary School, Croydon

Bullers Wood Girls' School, Bromley

Burnt Oak Juniors, Sidcup

Carshalton Boys School, Sutton

Carshalton College, Sutton

Carshalton High School for Girls, Sutton

Caterham School, Surrey

Centre Academy, London

Charles Darwin School, Bromley

Cheam High, Sutton

Chelsea Academy, Kensington and Chelsea

Chessington Community College

Christ's Hospital School, Horsham

Christ's School, Richmond

City of London Freemen's School, Surrey

City of London School, 

Colfe's School, Greenwich

Coloma Convent, Croydon

Coombe Boys' School, Kingston

Coombe Girls' School, Kingston

Cressey College (PRU), Croydon 

Croydon College

Croydon High School

Darrick Wood School, Bromley

De Salis Studio College, Hillingdon

Douay Martyrs RC School, Hillingdon 

Dulwich College, Southwark

East Surrey College, Redhill, Surrey

Edenbridge Primary School, Edenbridge, Surrey

Eltham College, Greenwich

Emanuel School, Battersea 

Epsom and Ewell High School, Surrey

Epsom College, Surrey

Farlington School, Horsham

Glenthorne High School, Sutton

Global Academy, Hillingdon

Greenshaw School, Sutton

Grey Coat Hospital School, Westminster

Grey Court School, Richmond

Hampton School, Richmond

Harlington School, Hayes

Hammersmith Academy, Hammersmith and Fulham

Hampton School, Twickenham

Harlington School, Hayes 

Harris Academy Beckenham

Harris Academy, Morden

Harris Academy, South Norwood 

Harris Chobham Academy, Stratford

Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, Croydon

Harrodian School, Barnes

Haydon School, Hillingdon

Henrietta Barnett School, Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hewen's College, Hillingdon

Holy Cross School, Kingston

Ibstock Place School, Roehampton

James Allen Girls' School, Dulwich

John Fisher School, Sutton

Kew House School, Richmond

King Edward's School, Bath

Kingston Academy, Kingston

Kingston Adult Education, Kingston

Kingston College, Kingston

Kingston University, Kingston

Kingswood Primary School, Surrey

Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton

Langley Park School for Boys, Bromley

Langley Park School for Girls, Bromley

Lady Margaret School, Hammersmith and Fulham

Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith and Fulham

Leweston School, Dorset

London South East Colleges in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Orpington

Longhill High School, West Sussex

Meridien High, Croydon

North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT), Epsom, Surrey

Nonsuch High School for Girls, Sutton

Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College, Croydon

North London Collegiate School

Oakham School, Rutland

Oasis Academy Coulsdon, Surrey

Oasis Academy Shirley Park, Croydon

Old Palace of John Whitgift School, Croydon

Orchard Park Academy, Croydon

Orleans Park School, Richmond

Overton Grange School, Sutton

Oxted School, Surrey

Parkside Studio College, Hillingdon

Playplace (youth referral scheme), Croydon

Priory CofE School, Surrey

Putney High School, Wandsworth

Queens College, London

Queensmead School, Hillingdon

Radnor House School, Twickenham

Ravensbourne School, Bromley

Raynes Park High, Merton

Red Hill Primary, Chiselhurst

Ricard's Lodge School, Wimbledon

Richard Challoner, Kingston

Richmond upon Thames College, Richmond

Riddlesdown Collegiate, Croydon

Rosedale College, Hillingdon

Royal Russell School, Croydon

Rutlish School, Merton

Ryde School, Isle of Wight

Sacred Heart High School, Hammersmith and Fulham

Shirley High, Croydon

South Thames College, Merton

Southborough High School, Surbiton

St Andrew's School, Croydon

St. Bede's School, Redhill, Surrey

St. David's School, Purley, Croydon

St George's College, Weybridge

St. George's RC School, Maida Vale, Westminster

St. John the Baptist School, Woking, Surrey

St. John's School, Leatherhead

St Mark's Academy, Merton

St Matthew's RC High, Manchester

St Paul's School, Barnes

St. Paul's Girls School, Hammersmith

St Peter's Collegiate School, Wolverhampton

St Philomena's RC High, Sutton

St Richard Reynolds School, Twickenham

St. Saviour's and St. Olave's CE School, Southwark

St. Thomas the Apostle College, Southwark

Stephen Perse Foundation Sixth Form College, Cambridge

Stewart Fleming Primary School, Anerley, Bromley 

Sutton Grammar School, Sutton

Sutton High School, Sutton

Sydenham High School

The Cedar's School, Croydon

The Charter School, Dulwich

The German School, Richmond

The Hayes Primary School, Kenley, Croydon

The Limes College, Sutton

Therfield School, Leatherhead, Surrey

Thomas Knyvett College, Ashford, Surrey

Tiffin Boys' School, Kingston

Tiffin Girls' School, Kingston

Tolworth Girls' School, Kingston

Townley Grammar, Bexley

Trinity School, Croydon

Trinity School, Sevenoaks, Kent

Trinity, Lewisham

Turing House School, Richmond

Ursuline High School, Merton

Uxbridge High School, Hillingdon

Waldegrave School, Twickenham

Wallington County Grammar, Sutton

Wallington High School for Girls, Sutton

Warlingham High, Surrey

West Hill School, Leatherhead, Surrey

Westminster School, Westminster

Wetherby Senior School, Kensington and Chelsea

Whitgift School, Croydon

Wick High School, The Highlands, Scotland

Wilson's School, Sutton

Scout groups

The Mothers' Union

Kingston Police Cadets