READING youngsters are receiving a hard-hitting lesson on the risks of underage drinking as part of an award-winning international programme.

Secondary school students 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.

Part of 'Smashed', an alcohol education and awareness programme sponsored by Diageo and delivered by Collingwood Learning, the tour will visit 90 schools in seven different regions across England, reaching 18,000 students.

To date, the programme has reached more than 380,000 pupils in 1,610 schools across the UK since it began in 2005.

‘Smashed’ was developed in consultation with young people and has been designed to engage with pupils in a different way to typical school lessons.

It combines the use of drama with interactive workshops to help young people understand the facts, causes, and consequences of alcohol misuse and the risks of underage drinking.

England is making progress to reduce levels of underage drinking.

The number of boys and girls aged eight to 15 that reported drinking alcohol has fallen significantly, sitting at 14 per cent compared to 45 per cent in 2003.

However, there is still work to be done, as 16-24 year olds are the most likely demographic to binge on alcohol when they do drink.

Smashed is targeting 12 to 16 year olds to help them make informed decisions in the future as they reach this age group.

Chris Simes, from Collingwood Learning, said: "The Smashed team are thrilled to be travelling the length and breadth of the UK for another year as we tackle the culture of underage drinking.

"By combining powerful emotive theatre with engaging interactive workshops, our creative educational performances are making a difference nationwide.

"With Diageo’s support, we are making sure more of the next generation have the confidence and knowledge they need to stand up to peer pressures and understand the risks of alcohol misuse."

Aileen Keyes, head of Alcohol in Society Europe, Diageo said: "Diageo are proud to be long-term sponsors of the Smashed project and Collingwood Learning.

"Their imaginative yet hard-hitting workshops are unforgettable, successfully raising awareness of the problems underage drinking and alcohol misuse can cause.

"Due to reach 45,000 school pupils this year in the UK alone, the programme ensures that an ever-growing number of young people are equipped to make informed decisions about drinking alcohol as they head towards adulthood.

"Our ambition is now to reach five million people through the Smashed programme by 2025."