Pupils as young as 11 have been allowed to smoke in the playground at one Leeds school, the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal.
Schoolchildren aged 11-16 were given permission to smoke their own cigarettes at break times and lunch at Elmete Central School in Roundhay – up until yesterday (October 16) when the YEP contacted Leeds City Council.
Each day the cigarettes were confiscated at the start of school but then given back to pupils by staff during break and lunchtimes for them to smoke on school grounds.
Health campaigners today said it was “inappropriate, wrong and unethical”. Education chiefs have now launched an investigation at the school for 75 pupils with behavioural and emotional difficulties which educates “some of the city’s most challenging young people”.
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 issued an instruction that it must stop immediately.
“We are confident that this practice has now ceased. The recently-appointed headteacher has agreed to review any such practices and to make sure this does not happen in the future we will conduct unannounced visits. We have a strict no smoking policy in all our schools and encourage them to promote healthy lifestyles to all pupils.”
A teaching source, who did not wish to be named, said: “Youngsters have been allowed to smoke between 11.10-11.20am and over lunchtime from 12.20-1.10pm, up until yesterday.”
The YEP understands that the practice was introduced after previous smoking bans at the school had resulted in some pupils missing school completely or leaving the grounds to smoke.
Deborah Arnott, of UK anti-smoking charity ASH, said: “This is wrong in so many ways. It’s illegal to sell tobacco to under 18s because it is so hazardous to health. It’s totally inappropriate and unethical.”