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Schools: Health Education

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps his Department is taking to inform school children of the adverse effects of (a) smoking and (b) alcohol abuse. (254605)

Currently all schools should teach pupils about the effects of smoking and alcohol abuse, as part of drug education, through a well planned programme of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. The Department's guidance, “Drugs: Guidance for Schools” (DfES 2004) sets out in broad terms what should be covered in each key stage.

We announced our intention to make PSHE education statutory in October 2008, in recognition of the key role it plays in equipping children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to lead healthy and successful lives. At the same time we launched an independent review of how this might be achieved in the most effective and practicable way. Sir Alasdair Macdonald, the headteacher of Morpeth school in Tower Hamlets, is conducting the review and will report in April 2009. Proposals for the statutory implementation of PSHE will be the subject of a full public consultation.

We cannot expect drug and alcohol education on its own to “solve the drug problem” in this country. That is why we are also increasing our focus on intervening with families at risk and continue to improve the support and treatment that the vulnerable young people who are most likely to develop a problem need.

We need parents and Children's Services to join with schools and colleges to raise awareness amongst young people of the risks and impacts of drug and alcohol use.

It is important that Government presents information to young people in ways that they find accessible. For that reason, on 29 January 2009, we launched a consultation on ‘Children, Young People and Alcohol’ alongside the chief medical officer’s guidance on ‘safer drinking’ to find out what information and advice parents and young people would find useful to inform their decisions about young people's drinking and to help reduce harm caused by it.