Time to get it sorted
: the politics of ineffective drug education in the UK

  • Zoe Lancelott

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This study examines the reasons behind the ongoing delivery of ‘ineffective’ school-based substance misuse education in the UK (ACMD, 2006). Historical documentary analysis explores the development of substance misuse education policy, and documents the issues surrounding attempts to measure the effectiveness of subsequent practice over the last 30 years. The research also evaluates the impact of the ‘Get Sorted’ project in establishing an infrastructure at a local authority level to co-ordinate a range of approaches to the delivery of substance misuse education within Rhondda Cynon Taf. The creation of the ‘Get Sorted’ project was informed by the findings of the documentary analysis and is concerned with reducing the practical limitations faced by educators in order to support them to improve the effectiveness of the education they deliver. The research makes use of three sources of evidence; documentary analysis findings, quantitative data collected to meet the practical monitoring requirements of the ‘Get Sorted’ project, and qualitative research data collected to evaluate the impact of the ‘Get Sorted’ project. The analytical strategy combines the data derived from these three data sets through the application of Stake’s Countenance Theory of Educational Evaluation (1967). The findings of the study demonstrate a conflict between the ‘prevention’ and ‘harm reduction’ approaches to substance misuse education. The assumptions that underpin these paradigms are analysed in conjunction with Burrell and Morgan’s (1979) subjective-objective dimension of assumptions, offering an original contribution to the debate about the efficacy of substance misuse education. The criteria used to define the ‘success’ of education programmes are shown to be unrealistic and not governed by evidence. This study shows that shifting the focus from measuring the effectiveness of individual programmes to the creation of a local authority infrastructure promotes collaboration between providers, improving the effectiveness of the education they deliver. Establishing an infrastructure, the ‘Get Sorted’ project has improved communication between practitioners and policy makers; implemented a consistent approach to the delivery of substance misuse education across a range of education providers and programmes; and ensured practice was informed by research.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMartin Graff (Supervisor), Peter Mayer (Supervisor) & David Turner (Supervisor)


    • Drug abuse Study and teaching Great Britain
    • Drugs Study and teaching Great Britain

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