Rise Above


After using Rise Above for 10 minutes or more, young people reported a decrease in the appeal of risk-taking behaviours such as smoking, drinking, trying drugs or early sexual experiences, and found it significantly easier to talk to parents or carers about sensitive topics*

* Independent study by a leading research organisation (TNS BMRB, 2015-16)

Tackling the challenges facing young people today

Your students are facing increasingly complex lives, and are experiencing many pressures that can harm their physical and mental wellbeing and affect their educational attainment. It's vital that they learn how to confront these challenges and feel supported in doing so.

Public Health England (PHE), the Government's national public health agency, leads in producing evidence and resources to engage with young people about their physical and mental health, and has created the Rise Above programme to help young people build resilience and cope with the challenges life throws at them.

Half of the most common health issues in adults are driven by habits and behaviours formed during adolescence. Between 11 and 16, many young people start experimenting with risky behaviours, including smoking, drinking alcohol, having sex and taking drugs.

Access to social media and the internet is now a part of their everyday lives, but it can pose risks to their health and wellbeing, with studies suggesting that excessive screen time can be associated with lower levels of self-reported happiness, lower self-esteem, and behaviour and attention problems. Some young people appear to be living their lives through the prism of social media, with its distortion of perceptions of personal appearance and social acceptance, and the attendant harm this can cause to young people's mental and physical wellbeing.

Teaching kids how to make smarter choices

Rise Above has been developed by PHE to address these health challenges in a way that resonates with young people and influences them to avoid or delay taking up risky behaviours. The programme launched two years ago, centred on a digital hub offering young people a safe and inspiring space where they can learn and rehearse how to deal with the issues that matter to them, and build their resilience and confidence.

Rise Above provides interactive videos, developed with and featuring young people, plus aspirational vloggers and influencers who model risk avoidance rather than risk taking, and make it appealing to young people. We're now complementing this direct-to young people programme by offering a programme tailored for use in the classroom.

The Rise Above programme is based on the 'Prototype Willingness model' (Gibbons & Gerrard, 2006). This model, developed following rigorous academic and clinical research and intervention testing, remains the best model for analysing risky youth behaviour. It explains that risky youth behaviour (such as smoking or drinking) is frequently unplanned by the young person, but is made on impulse, "in the moment".  

The model shows a reasoned path (where behaviour is based on intention to act) and a social reaction path (where action is based on willingness to engage in the behaviour). The social reaction path is the more dominant path for 11-16-year-olds. Interventions to influence youth behaviour should focus on the social reaction path, but using both paths can enhance their effectiveness — this is the approach taken by the Rise Above programme.

Rise Above for Schools lesson plans

Public Health England recognises the important role that teachers play in supporting and guiding young people to make positive choices around challenging issues, and we're mindful of the Secretary of State for Education's announcement about making PSHE compulsory in the future. We've developed Rise Above for Schools: a set of lesson plans including Rise Above resources to support teachers of 11 to 16-year-olds in delivering PSHE classes.

These flexible lesson plans have been designed to help teachers engage young people on a variety of key health issues, including: smoking, body image in the digital world, online stress and fear of missing out (FOMO) and exam stress. Further lesson plans will become available later this academic year.

The lesson plans are designed to help teachers encourage discussion among students on a range of sensitive issues, perhaps on topics they may not be very familiar with or find challenging to broach in the classroom.

The Rise Above lesson plans have been developed in conjunction with the PSHE Association and have been awarded the PSHE Association Quality Mark.

Flexible lesson plans

Each lesson plan includes:

  • learning objectives, outcomes, and key vocabulary
  • links to the PSHE Association Programme of Study
  • a resource list and preparation tips
  • a selection of starter activities to help teachers carry out an initial baseline assessment of students' prior knowledge, skills, and understanding to track and evaluate their progress during the lesson
  • interactive main and plenary activities, featuring:
    • Rise Above's interactive and role-play videos
    • many opportunities for peer-to-peer work
    • suggested key questions to ask students
  • time allocated to enable students to use the Rise Above website independently, allowing them to explore issues they may not feel comfortable discussing with the whole class
  • extension activity ideas

Check out the lesson plans