Theatre used as tool to help Year 9 students counter peer pressure to drink alcohol

An internationally-acclaimed theatre-based education programme aimed at providing Year 9 students with the skills to counter peer pressure around drinking alcohol has reached 20,000 students nationwide yesterday.

UK-founded The Smashed Project, a programme which delivers a theatre performance followed by an interactive workshop with the cast, was launched in Auckland in May after it was brought to New Zealand by responsible drinking initiative the Tomorrow Project and the Life Education Trust, Smashed said in a statement.

The project is set to reach 21 countries worldwide this year after beginning in 2005.

The programme, featuring a play about a group of friends who find themselves in trouble after drinking alcohol, reached its 20,000th student at Dunedin's Kavanagh College - exceeding its first-year target of 18,000 students across 120 different schools.

"We've had fantastic support from several regional trusts who have come on board to support a programme that they see significant value in," The Tomorrow Project spokesperson Matt Claridge said.

"The feedback from schools has been overwhelmingly supportive and we're delighted to reach 20,000 students – with many more to come."

A global survey of Smashed participants found that 95 per cent of students felt they understood more about the dangers of underage drinking than before the workshop; while 86 per cent of students were confident they knew where to get help about alcohol-related issues - an increase of 33 per cent.

Funding is currently being secured for the programme to be rolled out to all 60,000 Year 9 students nationwide next year.