Alex Cunningham, Labour Shadow Minister for Justice, asked the Secretary of State for Education what steps are being taken to ensure that relationships, sex and health education statutory guidance includes a requirement for pupils to be taught about the risks associated with e-cigarettes and vapes.
Nick Gibb informed the House that: “On 1 June 2023, the Prime Minister announced steps to prevent pupils getting access to vapes illegally. As part of this, the Department is planning to include a specific reference to the harms of vaping 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, including smoking, alcohol use, and drug-taking. To support schools to deliver this content effectively, the Department published a suite of teacher training modules, including on drugs, alcohol and tobacco, which makes specific reference to e-cigarettes (vaping).
“In addition, the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco are taught in compulsory health education. This supplements drug education which is part of the National Curriculum for science in Key Stages 2 and 3.
“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 vapes. Items banned by the school can be searched for as outlined in the department’s Searching, Screening and Confiscation guidance.”
The DUP’s Greg Campbell asked when the Secretary of State for Education plans to publish for consultation an amended draft of the statutory guidance on the risks associated with e-cigarettes in the Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum.
Nick Gibb repeated the entire bit about the Prime Minister’s steps to prevent pupils getting access to e-cigarettes illegally and the Department planning to include a specific reference to the harms of e-cigarettes in the amended RSHE curriculum.
“The Department expects to publish an amended draft of the statutory guidance for consultation later this autumn,” he continued, “with a view to a final version being published in 2024.”
With some believing an election will fall around Easter, it is highly possible that this amended draft will never see the light of day.
Then Gibb repeated the announcement that the RSHE statutory guidance already states that pupils should be taught the facts about legal and illegal harmful substances and associated risks, saying once again that “a suite of teacher training modules” are out there (if they can find the time to go track them down).
Gibb continued by repeating the bit about it being the schools’ job to come up with policies and enforce them – all of which had precisely nothing to do with the question Greg Campbell posed.
Concluding, Gibb said: “The Department believes that this will help head teachers to manage e-cigarettes on school premises and to inform pupils 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 them in the future.”
If you didn’t laugh you would cry.