More than 500 Year 7 students in Jersey have taken part in a new programme aimed at discouraging alcohol consumption among young teenagers.
The students and their parents have been encouraged to ‘Start Thinking About Alcohol Risks Today’ (STAART). The programme, run by the Public Health Department in conjunction with Education, Sport and Culture (ESC), has been funded by the Channel Islands Co-operative Society and has so far been running for 18 months.
A recent survey suggests that 70% (nearly 700) of 12- and 13-year-olds in Jersey have tried alcohol. The majority said they would only drink on special occasions, but approximately 3% stated that they drink regularly, with this figure rising to 10% by the age of 14 and 15.
STAART was developed in conjunction with local parents and professionals following evidence of the effectiveness of similar family-based initiatives. It complements schools’ existing Personal Social and Health Education programmes by engaging students and their parents in the delivery of information and skills which will support young people in delaying the onset of alcohol consumption for as long as possible.
All Year 7 students in the participating schools – aged 11 or 12 – are offered one-to-one sessions with a trained member of the school nursing team, after which parents are provided with a series of eight discussion cards designed to support them in having conversations around alcohol with their children. Additional take-home material is provided in Year 8 to help stimulate further discussion.
Research shows that delaying the start of drinking has an effect on the resultant harm that can be caused by alcohol misuse. In 2009, the Chief Medical Officer released guidance on alcohol use in young people, which recommended that an alcohol-free childhood was the healthiest and best option. However, if children do drink alcohol, it should not be at least until the age of 15 years.
Martin Knight, Senior Health Improvement Officer, said feedback from parents had been generally positive, with over 90% of parents who completed evaluation forms indicating that they had used the cards to speak to their child about alcohol.
“This is an excellent example of how various organisations, such as the School Nursing Team, ESC, Public Health, parents, and the Channel Islands Co-operative Society, are all working together to support the health of young people in Jersey,” he said.
“The findings from the recent survey include some positive news, showing a decline in the percentage of those aged 12 to 15 who had consumed alcohol in the seven days prior to being questioned, but the campaign to raise awareness is an ongoing one.”
Colin Macleod, The Channel Islands’ Co-operative Society Chief Executive, said: “As a community retailer, we have a duty to promote responsible drinking. We are pleased to support the STAART program, which has been hugely effective in better informing young people in the island about responsible drinking behaviors and alcohol misuse.”