January 20, 2016 by johnston00
Minister asks schools to ignore teaching resources from alcohol industry
All schools are to receive a directive from the Department of Education over the coming weeks asking them not to engage with any educational material developed by the drinks industry.
The alcohol industry-funded group Drinkaware has developed teaching material for teachers and youth workers about responsible drinking.
However, following a meeting with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and the Alcohol Health Alliance group, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said she would ask schools not to engage with or promote any such material.
A spokesman for Ms O’Sullivan confirmed that a circular would be issued to schools setting out this position shortly, while the department would not engage with industry-sponsored activity.
Last year Drinkaware – run by Meas, the Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society charity and funded by the drinks industry – advertised for an education programme manager.
Its director, Niamh Gallagher, said last night that the move might not apply to Drinkaware as it had since moved to appoint an independent board and blind trust with no industry representatives. However, she confirmed that the organisation remained funded by the industry.
“I don’t see that it applies to us,” she said. “In our previous incarnation, yes. But the industry has no influence on our operations or any of our material.” She said its role was limited to exploring whether it could develop resources of use to teachers rather rather than teaching children directly.
Prof Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland, welcomed Ms O’Sullivan’s pledge.
“Our children deserve to be supported and should be protected in school from the alcohol industry,” he said.
He said Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland – a group formed to support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill – was guided by the recommendation that the alcohol industry “has no role in the formulation of alcohol policies, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests”.
Senator Jillian van Turnhout, who has campaigned for a ban on any use of industry-sponsored material, also welcomed the move.
“Would we let the tobacco industry into our schools to run smoking cessation campaigns? I find it incredible that that we would even consider allowing material like this into our schools,” she said.
The HSE adopted a similar policy position last year.
Drinkaware’s advert for an education manager stated that a key part of the role was to “manage relationships” with relevant stakeholders including the Department of Education, teaching unions and parents’ networks.