THOUSANDS of students from across the North East will get a hard-hitting lesson on the risks of underage drinking as part of an award-winning international programme.

The ‘Smashed’ alcohol education and awareness programme is set to reach 5,000 pupils across the region's secondary schools who will watch a play about a group of friends who find themselves in trouble as a result of their misuse of alcohol.

The performance is followed by an interactive workshop where pupils will be invited to probe the cast on any of the issues brought up during the play and explore the consequences portrayed by the actors.

The programme was developed in consultation with young people and combines drama with interactive workshops to help young people understand the facts, causes, and consequences of alcohol misuse and the risks of underage drinking.

Following the workshops, ‘Smashed’ also provides additional support for the schools in delivering personal, social and health education, and offers a free online guide which supports parents with discussions at home about underage drinking.

Sharon Hodgson, Shadow Minister for Public Health and MP for Washington and Sunderland West said: “‘Smashed’ is an example of how we can do things differently when it comes to finding ways to improve health and wellbeing.

"Their exemplary use of theatre vividly conveys the risks of alcohol abuse.

"And the success of their approach means they have grown to take their workshop tours worldwide – but I’m particularly glad pupils in my constituency have the opportunity to participate.

"May I pass on my very best to everyone involved.”

The programme, which is sponsored by Diageo and delivered by Collingwood Learning, is being delivered to schools throughout the region until the end of the month including Staindrop Academy in Darlington this Thursday and Durham Johnston School on January 24.

It will then tour nationally, with the aim of reaching 35,000 students this year.