NICE updates guideline on alcohol education in schools

NICE is updating its guideline on Alcohol interventions in secondary and further education.

New draft recommendations will support the Department for Education’s (DfE) plan to make alcohol education a compulsory component of personal, social and health education (PSHE) in all state-funded schools in England from September 2020.

The guideline, developed with Public Health England, advises a positive approach to alcohol education; inviting classroom discussion and wider school policies to embed a ‘whole-school approach’ to PSHE.

Data suggests that alcohol consumption among young people has reduced in recent years.[i] However, NICE’s independent guideline committee recognised that risky drinking can still be an issue for young people and that some pupils may be more vulnerable to alcohol misuse.

Therefore, the draft guideline also covers targeted interventions for pupils identified as being most at risk. It says these interventions should be tailored to individuals’ needs and should avoid stigmatising the pupils involved.

Healthy decisions

Joanne Boyd, a member of the guideline committee and a trainer at Humankind, which provides the County Durham Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service, said: “For young people to leave school with healthy lives ahead of them, they need to be educated so they can make informed choices and be aware of the consequences of alcohol consumption.

“This guideline will help ensure that alcohol education isn’t a one-off topic, and that schools provide age-appropriate and accurate information.”

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, said: “There are many examples of schools that deliver very good alcohol education. The updated NICE guideline reinforces best practice and helps schools provide alcohol education that fits into the new era of PSHE.

“We have also made a number of research recommendations to help develop the evidence base for the future, in an area that is vital in helping young people make informed, healthy decisions.”

UPDATE: The final update to this guideline has now been published and can be accessed here


[i] A 2018 study by the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, found that 29% of those aged 16-24 said they never drank alcohol in 2015, up from 18% in 2005. The proportion who had not drunk in the last week rose from 35% to 50%.

Children and teachers in classroom

For young people to leave school with healthy lives ahead of them, they need to be educated so they can make informed choices and be aware of the consequences of alcohol consumption.

Joanne Boyd, committee member