Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Update: Alcohol Interactive

I have received the following email from Lynne Russell, the Press and PR Officer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.  It concerns this post regarding teaching 10 to 11 year-olds about alcohol using the medium of role-play.

As you will see she has asked me to share this information with you and in order to avoid any misunderstandings I have published it in full.  My opinion has not changed. The target group is too young.

I saw you article on your website today following Scotland on Sundays cover of the Alcohol Interactive project. As with much media cover, some areas of the SOS article were misleading and the headline completely misrepresented with project and wastotally inaccurate.  We are certainly not encouraging pupils to role play alcoholics and its this type of headline that undermines the excellent work that has been achieved by the hard working students.
 Ive seen this project in action. The students were amazing, the children got so much out of it and feedback from teachers was extremely positive. There were also no complaints from parents. Heres the article that I submitted to Scotland on Sunday. This is accurate and shows a bit more about what the project covered. I hope this goes some way to setting the record straight. It isalways so frustrating and disappointing for all involved, especially for our hard working students, now graduates, when their goodwork is portrayed in a sensational way which is misleading to readers.
If you are able to share this information with people who read your blog, it would be much appreciated.
Kind regards
Lynne Russell
Press and PR Officer
Alcohol Interactive gets down to serious business in East Lothian schools
As part of their final year Community Theatre project, two drama students developed an interactive project in a bid to raise awareness of alcohol issues amongst East Lothian primary school children.                                                                                 
The genesis of the project grew out of QMUs Alcohol Research Group - an interdisciplinary group made up of academics from a variety of subject specialisms. Academics from both health and drama came up with the idea of a student project and in response, students Kimberly Bale and Kirsty Hunt set up a theatre company called Alcohol Interactive. The aim of the alcohol awareness drama project was to provide children with a real life type experience of witnessing the social effects of alcohol and dealing with peer pressure. The students developed the interactive drama programme and delivered the project to seven East Lothian primary schools over a 10-week period, reaching in excess of 300 school children.
The students used games, role play and interactive questions, answers and discussion sessions to help children understand why people drink, as well as the negative impact that drinking to excess can have on individuals and others around them.                                                             
Kimberly and Kirsty encouraged the children to develop their own dramas to depict specific situations. With some of the sessions taking place in the assembly hall, children had the freedom of space to engage in fun, physical role play. The students used scenarios, such as adults drinking at a dinner party, a family enjoying alcohol at a wedding, teenagers getting drunk in the park, and drinking games getting out of hand at a night club, to depict socially acceptable drinking as well as the consequences of drinking too much.
Kimberly explained: We used different methods to encourage children to feedback their understanding of alcohol while also helping them to learn about what is socially acceptable and what behaviours can lead to negative situations. The children were also able to explore techniques they could use when dealing with peer pressure.
Kirsty said: One of the most important messages we tried to get across is that when the children get older they can choose to drink or not to drink and they dont have to go with the crowd. We encouraged them to be strong with their own choice, be honest about why they maybe didnt want to drink, and if peer pressure became too much they could remove themselves from the situation or let a responsible person know that they were being pressurised.    
The project was assisted by Lesley Smith, Principal Arts Officer at the Brunton Theatre, East Lothian and assessed by Irvine Allan, Lecturer in Drama at QMU. Irvine said: This is an excellent example of the social relevance of Queen Margaret Universitys community drama work. The project was delivered in a simple but effective way. The students were very skilled at encouraging pupils to engage in the work and creating the opportunity for open discussion.   
He concluded: The feedback from participating schools was excellent with teachers very clearly seeing the benefits of the project. I am extremely proud of what these two students have achieved  and even since graduating they have continued to work with QMUs Alcohol Research Group to identify how they can further develop this important project for the benefit of the local community and ultimately society as a whole.          
Since their graduation, Kimberly has been working at an after school club and Kirsty is involved with Perths Youth Theatre Director Scheme.  The pair has also secured funding to repeat the Alcohol Interactive workshops in schools across East Lothian and hope to gain additional funding to roll the workshops out to 40 schools throughout Scotland.
Depute Provost Roger Knox, who chairs the Brunton Theatre Trust, commented: "This is yet another excellent example of the flourishing co-operation between the Theatre and the University. We are delighted to support the students and encourage them to develop the University's relationship with the local community.  The success of their efforts in this particular topic is of immense benefit, not only to their own professional and academic work, but also to the health and well being of the pupil population. Thanks to initiatives like these, I have little doubt that the message about alcohol misuse is getting through to youngsters and we look forward to this type of activity growing and expanding to cover the whole county and beyond.”
For further information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, email:
Lynne Russell
Press and PR Officer
Marketing and Communications Office
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
EH21 6UU


Clarinda said...

It might lend some professional credibility to this experiment if the support of official children's social and medical welfare groups and charities could be reported as fully endorsing this venture. I presume these "300 children" will be followed up to establish the actual validity of this study in "social relevance" rather than the ancedotal review of "no complaints" received and the children had fun?

There is no question that Scotland's record on alcohol is not one to be proud of and a range of justifiable initiatives need to be rationally and strategically introduced. It's interesting that our primary school children can be experimented upon while the established research and medical evidence on the effect of altering the cost of alcohol was recently brushed aside by the unionist section at Holyrood.

I still have reservations on the ethics of exposing children who may be under the covert stress of alcohol abuse in their home without apparent supplementary professional support to this experiment. I stand to be corrected if this is not the case.

Dick Puddlecote said...

What a load of public-funded psychobabble. As you say Rosie, what on earth is such tosh doing in primary school when many can't even master teaching basic reading skills?

subrosa said...

Clarinda, in my response to Ms Russell I asked her if any psychologists had vetted the project prior to its trial. In her reply she never answered that question.

Having had experience of both ends of role play for many years, using it with regard to alcohol with such young children leaves these pupils open to lots of problems.

subrosa said...

Dick, smoking is next. Wait and see.

Anonymous said...

When I was a child at school, we had plays. The children enacted some story or drama. Usually, these plays were of a pantomime nature. But the event was not just about the play - it was also a fête. There were tombola stalls and 'guess the number of peas in the jar' type things. Everyone had some fun.

Dick P uses the right word when he said 'psychobabble'. Teachers ought not to have in their minds such thoughts as climate change and alcohol when they are teaching. All these things are conjectures.

Let us start using that word - conjecture. Schools should not involve themselves in conjectures for young children. Real facts are enough for them to be going on with.

subrosa said...

Great idea junican.

As I'm sure you are aware role-play is quite different to a play which involves innocent fun. Usually in school plays everyone had a part too and in role-play it's a lengthy business involving everyone in the actual scene.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Two thoughts:

1. Involving such young children in propaganda exercises of this sort is something that would have appealed to Stalin; to find out where this leads, if you can't guess, google Pavlik Morozov.

2. Why is everyone connected with such exercises such a grim-visaged unsmiling po-faced puritan?

subrosa said...

Funny you should say that WY. Only last night someone mentioned the project was like something out of Russia.

I haven't seen an imagine of those connected with this so I can't comment, but I understand the irony if that is so.

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