To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether she has considered the potential merits of including in statutory guidance on relationships, sex and health education a requirement for pupils to be taught about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and vapes.
On 1 June 2023, the Prime Minister announced an intervention which will take steps to prevent children obtaining e-cigarettes illegally. The Department is planning to include a specific reference to the dangers of e-cigarettes in the amended relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum.
The RSHE statutory guidance, which sets out the curriculum topics, already states that in primary and secondary school, pupils should be taught the facts about legal and illegal harmful substances and associated risks. This includes smoking, alcohol use, and drug taking. To support schools to deliver this content effectively, the Department published a suite of teacher training modules, including drugs, alcohol and tobacco, which makes specific reference to e-cigarettes.
In addition, drugs, alcohol and tobacco are taught in compulsory health education. This supplements drug education which is part of the National Curriculum for Key Stages 2 and 3 science.
Schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy that sets out what is expected of all pupils, including what items are banned from school premises. This should be communicated to all pupils, parents and school staff.
Schools have the autonomy to decide which items should be banned from their premises, and these can include e-cigarettes. Items banned by the school can be searched for as outlined in the department’s searching, screening and confiscation guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/searching-screening-and-confiscation.
The Department believes that this will help head teachers to manage the use of e-cigarettes on school premises and to inform young people about the risks, with a view to reducing the numbers of pupils who are currently using e-cigarettes, or who might be tempted to try it in the future.