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Going smoke free at the Alternative School

This year we have been working with ASH Scotland and NHS Lothian to gain practical support to improve our tobacco education and to develop a tobacco-free policy for the school.

Our Alternative School provides young people who are at risk of exclusion from mainstream education or who may find school a challenge, an alternative place to learn, grow and develop. Students attend the school twice per week for 1:1 support on subjects including Maths and English in addition to physical activity sessions. We have a focus on self-reflection and personal development.

The Alternative School has embraced smoking prevention activities and supports students who smoke to consider cutting down or quitting. Through support from the Lothian Schools tobacco-free schools project we were able to apply for small grant funding and access free resources, support and expert advice from ASH Scotland and NHS Lothian 

The tobacco-free schools approach is a great fit for the Alternative School. It puts an emphasis on pupil welfare and health and wellbeing rather than discipline. This matches our teaching philosophy which is under-pinned by our ‘building a bridge" model and nurturing young people. We know that the young people taking up smoking tend to be from more disadvantaged backgrounds and more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cannabis or engage in other risky behaviours. If young people are smoking because they are using it to deal with feelings of boredom, stress or anger they are unlikely to respond to punishment and instead need nurture and support.   

Our school manager Emma Easton met with a smoking cessation advisor from NHS Lothian who was able to guide her through the referral options for stop smoking support  that were available for pupils, their families and staff. We wanted to create a supportive environment for people who want to quit smoking. Our approach to smoking cessation is guided by the students themselves and the project encouraged us to come up with solutions that would work for us and our students. Our students decided to use the funding to incentivise all students to engage with the smoke free project. Students could earn points each week for any of the following activities: 

  • encouraging a peer not to smoke during the school day 
  • engaging in a smoking prevention activity e.g. video, research or class activity
  • having a discussion with a member of staff about smoking 
  • choosing to miss a smoking break or to go longer between cigarettes

The students also made suggestions around how to deal with smoking at break times and introduced personalised targets and a peer-buddy system to encourage them to be smoke-free whilst at Spartans. They received a gift voucher for successfully participating in the project and earning points. We also developed a smoke free policy for the school and we are excited that it has been adopted by the Spartans Community Football Academy as a whole.

We'll continue to keep tobacco education in our curriculum and support our students to lead smoke-free lives. We've signed up to Scotland’s Charter for a Tobacco-free Generation and we will continue to take steps towards Scotland’s 2034 smoke-free target.