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National guidance on tackling alcohol consumption among children

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today issued national guidance on effective ways to encourage children not to drink, delaying the age at which young people start drinking and reducing the harm it can cause among those who do drink. The guidance is aimed at anyone who works with children and young people in schools and other education settings. It gives advice on incorporating alcohol education into the national science and personal, social and health education (PSHE) curricula, and helping children and young people access the right support. In 2006, 21% of pupils in England aged 11-15 reported drinking alcohol in the previous week.

Key recommendations include:

  • Head teachers, teachers, school governors and others who work in (or with) schools should ensure that alcohol education is an integral part of the national science, PSHE and PSHE education curricula, in line with Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) guidance. Education programmes should increase knowledge of the potential damage alcohol use can cause and provide the opportunity to explore attitudes to - and perceptions of - alcohol use.
  • Where appropriate, parents or carers should be offered information about where they can get help to develop their parenting skills. This includes problem-solving and communication skills, and advice on setting boundaries for their children and teaching them how to resist peer pressure.
  • If children and young people are thought to be drinking harmful amounts of alcohol, teachers, school nurses and school counsellors, should offer brief, one-to-one advice on the harmful effects of alcohol use, how to reduce the risks and where to find sources of support.
  • Head teachers, school governors, healthy school leads, school nurses and extended services should maintain and develop partnerships to support alcohol education in schools as part of the national science, PSHE and PSHE education curricula.

Andrew Dillon, Executive lead for the guideline, and chief executive, NICE says: "Many different factors have an influence on alcohol consumption among children and young people, including peer pressure, the media and the availability and cost of alcohol. It is important that we now have national guidance for tackling this issue so that we can do everything possible to delay the onset of drinking and reduce the harmful effects of alcohol use."

Professor Catherine Law of the UCL Institute of Child Health and Chair of the Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee at NICE says: "Drinking harmful amounts of alcohol not only affects the individual, it has a huge impact on the rest of society. As well as the increased health risks, other societal costs include poor school attendance and educational attainment, antisocial behaviour, violence and accidents. It is in all of our interests to reduce the harm that alcohol can cause among young people who drink. By incorporating alcohol education into the national science and PSHE curricula for example through increasing knowledge of the potential damage that alcohol can cause physically, mentally and socially - and helping young people develop decision-making skills, we can help prevent them from getting into trouble with alcohol."

Alasdair Hogarth, head teacher, Archbishops School, Canterbury says: "Young people see alcohol on sale all around them, in supermarkets, off-licences, pubs and restaurants. The UK has some of the highest levels of young people drinking alcohol in Europe so it is essential that those working with young people incorporate awareness about the risks of drinking into education and where applicable, offer advice on where to find sources of support. If young people are aware about the potential damage that alcohol use can cause, they will be better-placed to make informed decisions."


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