Peer pressure and alcohol on the agenda for Bay of Plenty students


Internationally acclaimed theatre-based education programme Smashed Project is back in Tauranga for a second year.

The visit is part of its nationwide tour of secondary schools aimed at equipping Year 9 students with the skills they need to counter peer pressure to drink alcohol.

The cast of three were at Tauranga Boys' College today, for two performances, and will visit Pāpāmoa College on Thursday and Aquinas College on Friday.

Established in the UK in 2005, Smashed Project was launched in New Zealand last year, reaching more than 20,000 students across 93 schools in its first year. So far this year, the programme – delivered by Life Education Trust and supported by responsible drinking initiative Cheers and TECT – has reached more than 4300 students across 20 schools.

Tauranga Boys' College deputy principal Leyton Watson said: "The actors brought energy and enthusiasm and were able to connect well with the audience, there were some important messages delivered for the students in an entertaining and thought-provoking way. The seminar supports our junior health programme in providing another vehicle to get this information across to the boys".

Smashed Project delivers important messages about delaying drinking.

The programme features a play about a group of young friends who learn first-hand the risks of drinking, followed by an interactive workshop session where pupils are invited to probe the cast on issues brought up during the play.

After taking part in the programme last year, 91 per cent of teenagers surveyed said they'd wait until 18 to try alcohol.

Smashed Project spokesperson Matt Claridge said following the positive response from last year's programme, it was essential to bring Smashed Project back to schools for a second year.

"We know from our own research that the younger people are when they begin drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to develop poor drinking behaviours later in life and this is a pattern that we are looking to change.

"Smashed Project gives teenagers a safe space to talk about peer pressure and underage drinking. Because it tells someone else's story – not their own – it allows the students to actively rehearse situations and engage in the issues raised as a group. This includes looking at other options or choices for the characters that may lead to better outcomes."

While the Covid-19 lockdown impacted Smashed Project's calendar, Life Education Trust still expect to reach more than 12,000 year 9 students this year.

Life Education Trust CEO John O'Connell said schools had been overwhelmingly supportive of Smashed following last year's programme and the majority had rebooked prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.

"We had fantastic support from schools last year and they value the learning opportunity, but Covid-19 has created many planning challenges as we work through the various alert levels and what they mean for schools. The need to support young people hasn't changed and we still aim to reach as many Year 9 students as we can."

The three New Zealand Smashed actors selected following auditions are Lucy Dawber, Todd Waters and Muhammad (Mo) Nasir.