UK & World News
Leeds School Let 11-Year-Old Students Smoke
A school which allowed pupils as young as 11 to smoke in the playground has been forced to end the policy after receiving heavy criticism.
Elmete Central School in Roundhay, Leeds, gave permission to children aged between 11 and 16 to smoke cigarettes in the grounds.
It is understood cigarettes were confiscated at the beginning of the day but then given back to pupils, by staff, during lunchtime and other breaks.
The school provides specialist education for pupils with behaviour, emotional and social difficulties and has around 75 pupils.
It is thought the students were allowed to smoke to keep them at school throughout the day.
It is understood the policy was put in place by a past head teacher, as some pupils were not attending school and were occasionally leaving the premises when they did attend.
The current head teacher has been in charge for only a few days, but has agreed to ensure the policy does not continue.
A teaching source at the school, which educates "some of the city's most challenging young people", said: "Youngsters have been allowed to smoke between 11.10-11.20am and again over lunchtime from 12.20-1.10pm, until Wednesday this week.
"Pupils handed in their cigarettes and possessions each morning and were handed back their cigarettes, at the allocated times each day.
"Considering the youngest are only 11, it does not seem right. Staff have to go some way off the school grounds if they wish to smoke."
Anti-smoking health campaigners have blasted the practice as "inappropriate, wrong and unethical", while Leeds City Council education chiefs have launched an investigation at the school.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of UK anti-smoking health charity ASH, said: "Allowing children to smoke at school is wrong in so many ways.
"It is illegal to sell tobacco to young people under the age of 18 precisely because tobacco is so hazardous to health and well-being.
"It is totally inappropriate and unethical to allow children to smoke in a school environment. The school wouldn't allow children to drink so why are they allowing them to smoke? We urge the school to urgently review this policy."
Paul Brennan, deputy director for children's services, at Leeds City Council said: "We take this issue very seriously and as soon as it was brought to our attention we spoke to the school and issued an instruction that it must stop immediately. We are confident that this practice has now ceased.
"The recently appointed head teacher has agreed to review any such practices and to make sure this does not happen in the future we will conduct unannounced visits by local authority staff.
"We have a strict no smoking policy in all of our schools and encourage them to promote healthy lifestyles to all pupils."