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DrinkAware wants to educate young people about drinking but it's facing criticism

It’s funded by the alcohol industry.

Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

DRINKAWARE IS CURRENTLY developing resources for schools, and not everyone is happy about it.

The organisation, which is run by the Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS) charity and is funded by the drinks industry, is looking for an education programme manager to oversee this.

In the job advertisement, it states that the successful applicant will “manage relationships with relevant stakeholders” including the Department of Education, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, teachers’ unions, and parents’ networks.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout is not impressed by the move. Speaking in the Seanad recently, she said the HSE has already provided material on sensible drinking for use in SPHE classes.

There is no role for the drinks industry in our schools. DrinkAware is funded by the drinks industry. It is reprehensible that it even considers going into our schools to educate our young people on drink.
Would we allow representatives of manufacturers of other products to go into schools and educate them on why they should have less of the product?

Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue recently asked the Education Minister her view on the issue in the Dáil.

Jan O’Sullivan told him:

It is a matter for schools and teachers in the first instance to determine what resources and supports they will use to support their implementation of the curriculum. Teachers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to identify the most suitable resources to assist them in delivering the curriculum in their classroom.

Gemma Tuffy, from the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), said: “Many organisations seek to work with second-level schools including charitable organisations, public/state organisations, local and national businesses, and multinational companies.”

She reiterated O’Sullivan’s stance that it’s “up to individual teachers and schools to choose which organisations they work with and to set guidelines or protocols for governing interaction between the school and particular organisations”.

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Alcohol stock Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

Tuffy added that young people “are not exploited for commercial advantage” such as the selling of products or services while they’re at school.

“Content supplied to schools or students is appropriate, accurate and does not create false impressions about a product or service. In addition, the ASTI advises that there is prior engagement with the wider school community (including the board, parents reps, etc.) about the involvement of external organisations,” Tuffy stated.

Miriam Taber, Marketing & Communications Manager for DrinkAware, said the organisation is “currently in the planning and development stages of our new strategy so there are no updates to provide as of yet”.

“The exploration is around whether there are ways we can contribute to developing resources that could be of use to teachers and youth workers,” she added.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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