Schools encouraged to participate in NHS survey on smoking, drinking and drug use

Secondary schools across England are being invited to take part in the latest edition of a statistical survey measuring the use of alcohol, nicotine and drugs by young people.

The Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use in Young People in England survey provides an invaluable snapshot of prevalence, trends and attitudes amongst students aged 11 to 16.

The results will provide vital information to better understand behaviour and to develop policies, plan new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Students in participating schools will complete the survey questionnaire anonymously under exam conditions. This year for the first time, the survey will be open to all mainstream secondary schools and entirely online, so students will be able to complete it securely on a school computer, laptop or tablet.  This will halve the time needed and improve accessibility, making it easier for schools and for students.

Since its inaugural publication in 1982, the survey is now published every two years and has been an important source of information for government departments, local authorities, charities and academic institutions. It plays an essential role in informing health and education policy, for instance in 2015, the survey data was used to help make the case for the legislation which banned adults smoking in cars when children are present.

The 2023 report will be published by NHS England next year and is accredited with National Statistics status, while the survey itself will be carried out by Ipsos.

It will include information on the percentage of students who have ever smoked, drunk alcohol or taken drugs and is analysed by demographics including age, gender, ethnicity and geography.

The survey will also deliver updated insights into the increasing use of e-cigarettes, or ‘vaping’, amongst young people. This follows findings from the 2021 survey which saw a 3% increase in e-cigarette use, from 6% in 2018 up to 9% in 2021.

As part of the research, secondary schools from across the country are being asked to facilitate the short survey between September and December 2023. State, independent and private secondary schools are all invited to register their interest in participating.

Schools will receive a lesson plan designed to fit in with the PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) curriculum and the survey can be run as part of a PSHE lesson. Participating schools will also receive a bespoke report showing how their school’s survey results compare to the national results. The new online format will also allow the survey to be undertaken on a voluntary basis by schools annually.

Gary Childs, Assistant Director, Data and Analytics at NHS England said: “The insight about behaviours and attitudes that this survey offers is essential to the formation of effective health and education policy.

“Without the participation of schools, we would not be able to provide this crucial insight and therefore we are extremely grateful to all the schools and students who take up this opportunity.”

Sam Clemens, Research Director at Ipsos said: “We are really pleased to be launching this survey digitally for the first time, and are looking forward to working closely with NHS England, schools and students across the country to deliver another hugely insightful data gathering project.

“The scale of the survey allows us to accurately understand the nuances in trends between age groups and demographics, which is why we encourage as many schools as possible to participate. In addition to helping wider policy, this information will allow schools to provide bespoke and targeted support to their students.”

The new digital version of the Smoking, Drinking and Drugs Survey has been piloted with a small group of volunteer schools.

Aimee Stevens, Head of CLASS – Culture, Life and Societies Studies (PSHE) at Penrice Academy in Cornwall, said: “Being involved in this year’s pilot scheme for the survey has been incredibly valuable to us. It has helped us understand how these issues affect our students and how we can incorporate the data into our pastoral offer as well as PSHE lessons.

“It is important that students have the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences and that we gather perspectives from across the country. The topics are very relevant points of interest to our pupils and the survey is a fantastic opportunity for us to engage in informed discussions on the issues of smoking, drinking and drug use.”

Schools can register their interest to participate or find out more information about the survey by emailing

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