Are schools and alcohol a good mix? A qualitative study of school principals’ experiences of adults’ alcohol use in Australian secondary schools

Bernadette M Ward, Penny Buykx, Geoffrey Munro, John Wiggers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Parents, schools and the broader community influence children’s socialisation to alcohol. In Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States there have been media reports of adults consuming alcohol at family focused school events such as fairs and graduations. The aim of this qualitative study was to describe school principals’ experiences of adults’ use of alcohol at school events, when children are present. Design/setting/participants: A qualitative descriptive study was undertaken. Publicly available lists were used to invite sixty principals from government and Catholic secondary schools in Victoria, Australia. In-depth interviews were conducted and analysed thematically and reported using the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research guidelines. Results: Fourteen principals (five female, nine male) participated. Most (10) of the participating principals reported adults’ use of alcohol at events when students were present. Regarding these events, most principals reported concerns regarding potential harms and responsibility for decision making about alcohol availability in schools. Some (4) principals believed alcohol should not be present at such events and this was their practice. Half of the participating schools had recently made changes to reduce the availability or management of alcohol at school functions. Conclusions: The findings confirm the common use of alcohol by adults at school events, the challenges this poses for school principals and suggests consideration needs to be given to identifying strategies for supporting schools and school principals in decision-making regarding the conduct of such events.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere010904
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • alcohol
  • schools

Cite this