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Support grows for Life Skills lessons campaign

Support was growing today for the attempt by Hull North MP Diana Johnson to make lessons about drugs, alcohol and relationships compulsory in classrooms.

The Relationship, Drug and Alcohol Education (Curriculum) Bill requires the Secretary of State for Education to include relationships, drug and alcohol education in the National Curriculum.

The Bill will be introduced by the Hull North MP Diana Johnson in the House of Commons tomorrow (Wednesday 17 October) straight after Prime Minister’s Questions, under the Ten Minute Rule Bill procedure.

The Bill is backed by charities and campaigns with expertise of working in the fields of drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, sexual health and child welfare issues.

These now include The Amy Winehouse Foundation, Brook, the Family Planning Association, Adfam, the Angelus Foundation, The End Violence Against Women Coalition, Mentor, Alcohol Concern and Turning Point.

In a statement backing the Bill, the Amy Winehouse Foundation said today: "At the Amy Winehouse Foundation we passionately believe that all children deserve the opportunity to learn about the potential dangers of drugs and alcohol. With the ever changing landscape of substance misuse in the UK we feel it is imperative that drug and alcohol education become mandatory on the schools curriculum. At the Amy Winehouse Foundation we are, in partnership with Addaction, developing a drug and alcohol awareness programme, which would be delivered not only to students, but also to parents and teachers. This programme will inform students about the dangers of drink and drugs and help them to build their self esteem and resilience towards peer pressure, and develop their ability to better identify risky behaviours.”

Diana Johnson MP’s Bill calls for drugs and alcohol education to be given that includes practical information such as the growing dangers from ‘legal highs’, the alcoholic content of different drinks and the health implications of drinking from an early age, alongside what a person should expect from healthy relationships.

The Bill’s objective is for relationships education to complement compulsory sex education, where the existing focus is solely on the basic biological facts, reproduction and the spread of infections and viruses. There is currently no requirement to teach about healthy relationships, or about building self esteem and body confidence.

The Bill has cross-party backing in the House of Commons. Labour MPs supporting the Bill include Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Lyn Brown (West Ham), Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston), Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South), Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) and Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe). The Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole Andrew Percy and the Lib Dem MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole Annette Brook are also backing the Bill.

Diana Johnson MP said: “I am delighted to have such strong and distinguished backing for my Ten Minute Rule Bill from organisations such as The Amy Winehouse Foundation, Turning Point, Alcohol Concern and many others; plus cross-party support in the Commons.

“Giving young people the life skills to make sound choices will help the fight against the costly social ills of binge drinking, drugs abuse and relationships breakdowns. A vital part of combating problems such as unplanned teenage pregnancies and domestic violence is making sure that school pupils learn more about personal relationships than just the basic biology.

“I hope that Michael Gove will think again on this issue.”