Reinventing alcohol education during a pandemic

Chris Simes

Chris Simes is the Managing Director of Collingwood Learning; an award-winning creative education company passionate about making a difference to young people by delivering engaging and empowering educational content.

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Now, there’s a title I wouldn’t have imagined myself writing a year ago!

As I put pen to paper, I’m almost loathed to start writing ‘yet another article’ about COVID-19; as educators, we all know the dreadful impact that it’s had on schools and young people across the UK and how it has fundamentally changed how we engage with our students. 

What has been a constant source of inspiration and hope over the last year are the amazing stories of adaptation and innovation on the part of teachers, school leaders and 3rd party education providers (not to mention parents and young people themselves) to make remote and online learning work as a viable alternative to the classroom. 

For around 15 years, Collingwood Learning has delivered The Smashed Project, a ground-breaking alcohol education programme for young people, designed to engage Key Stage 3 students in healthy discussion and debate around the effects and impact of underage drinking.

From humble beginnings as a UK-based Theatre-in-Education touring programme the project has evolved, with the support of our sponsors Diageo, into a truly global movement encompassing 25 countries worldwide. Over 900,000 young people have been engaged by the project and we have ambitious plans to reach 5 million by 2025.

Faced with the sudden inability to deliver live workshops in schools, we had to respond rapidly with an engaging and educationally credible alternative to face-to-face interaction with young people.  As the originators and global leaders of the programme, we also felt a responsibility to develop and trial a solution which could be considered for adoption by our international delivery partners who were facing the same challenges presented by COVID. 

Smashed Online has become that solution, dedicated to:

  • Increasing knowledge and understanding of the effects of underage drinking
  • Helping young people understand social influences that may cause underage drinking, particularly peer pressure
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships, and informed decision making

The hour-long online programme combines filmed theatre-based episodes from our live workshops with interactive activities for KS3 students to complete and is fully linked to the PSHE Association’s Programme of Study and CCEA guidelines in Northern Ireland. We’re also delighted to say that we are able to offer Smashed Online throughout the UK entirely free of charge. 


Thus far, we have seen over 16,000 users engage with Smashed Online either as self-directed remote learning or teacher-led whole class sessions. What a result when you consider that in March 2020 we were staring into the abyss!

Feedback from teachers has been particularly encouraging, which to us is the most telling sign that we’ve managed to hit the right mark with the online resource:

“It was a fantastic resource for our students during lock down. It covered issues which we know were challenging for some students at that time, and the professionalism of the resource package meant that my teachers could focus their energy on adapting follow-up challenges to specific student needs.”

Most importantly, we’re so excited to be using storytelling and theatre in a brand-new way as we embrace online; helping teachers deliver Personal, Social and Health Education and offering students an engaging programme which makes the risks of underage drinking impossible to forget.

As a result of the success of the UK launch of Smashed Online, we are now actively working with 5 other countries to bring their versions of the resource to life, with plans for 10 more countries after that. It’s fair to say that 2020 was a transformative year for both Collingwood Learning and the Smashed Project and one which has left us stronger and more adaptable than ever before.

Try out Smashed Online for yourself at:

 Looking for more resources to support your teaching and learning? Check out the best education technology resources on our sister platform EdTech Impact.

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