Children and young people risk disease, poisoning, injury, violence, depression and damage to their development from drinking alcohol, especially those who drink heavily (Statistics on alcohol, England, 2018, National Statistics). Drinking at an early age is also associated with a higher likelihood of alcohol dependence.
The statistics on alcohol also show that:
44% of 11- to 15‑year olds had tried alcohol
10% of 11- to 15‑year olds had drunk alcohol in the past week
pupils who drank alcohol in the past week consumed an average (mean) of 9.6 units
girls (11%) were more likely than boys (7%) to report having been drunk in the past 4 weeks.
Since publication of NICE's guideline on alcohol and school-based interventions (PH7) in 2007, the public health and education sectors have changed a great deal. For example, academies and free schools have been introduced, leading to a reduction in local authority governance of schools. Some of the barriers and facilitators for implementing the previous NICE guidance have also changed.
In addition, the Chief Medical Officer's guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people was published in 2009. This advises parents and children that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
In light of all these changes, we decided to update the guideline.
The Department of Health and Social Care's youth alcohol action plan acknowledges that alcohol education in schools is crucial. In England, personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) is the most common way to deliver this. Currently PSHE is not statutory (Personal, social, health and economic education, Department for Education). But from 2020 the health aspects will be compulsory in all schools.
This guideline covers children and young people aged 11 to 18 in full-time education and young people aged 18 to 25 with special educational needs and disabilities in full-time education. The latter group has been added to the groups covered by PH7, in line with the Children and Families Act 2014.
Unlike PH7, this guideline does not cover alcohol education for children of primary school age. Children under 11 will be covered in the next update of NICE's guideline on social and emotional wellbeing in primary education.