Outrage as children as young as eleven are allowed to smoke in the school playground

Cigarettes were returned to children at break times so they could smoke

The school wouldn’t allow children to drink so why are they allowing them to smoke?

The pupils were given permission to light up at the school in Leeds even though most were below the legal smoking age of 16.

Cigarettes were taken away from pupils at the start of the day at ­Elmete Central School in Roundhay, but staff returned them at break times.

The school, which caters for pupils with behavioural and social problems, believed allowing them to smoke would stop them playing truant.

Leeds City Council education chiefs have launched an investigation and told the school’s headteacher to end smoking immediately.

Their action comes as health campaigners blasted the decision to let pupils smoke as “inappropriate, wrong and unethical”.

A teaching source at the school said: “Youngsters have been allowed to smoke between 11.10-11.20am and again over lunchtime from 12.20-1.10pm until Wednesday this week.

“Pupils handed in their cigarettes and possessions each morning and were handed back their cigarettes at the allocated times each day.

“Considering the youngest are only 11, it does not seem right. Staff have to go some way off the school grounds if they wish to smoke.”

Deborah Arnott, of the anti-smoking health charity Ash, said: “Allowing children to smoke at school is wrong in so many ways.

“It is illegal to sell tobacco to young people under the age of 18 precisely because tobacco is so hazardous to health and wellbeing.

“It is totally inappropriate and unethical. The school wouldn’t allow children to drink so why are they allowing them to smoke?”

Scott Crosby, regional tobacco control policy manager for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “By the age of 15, around one in eight school children have become regular smokers. Just one cigarette can make children more likely to start smoking several years later. Children who smoke often become regular adult smokers of which half will die as a result of their habit.

“Children will also suffer immediate health consequences from smoking, such as coughs, wheeziness and shortness of breath, and take more time off school.”

The Leeds school playground where pupils were allowed to light up cigarettes [ROSS PARRY]

Paul Brennan, the city council’s deputy director for children’s services, said: “We take this issue very seriously and as soon as it was brought to our attention we spoke to the school and 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 by local authority staff.

“We have a strict no smoking policy in all our schools and encourage them to promote healthy lifestyles to all pupils.”

On its website the school claims to regularly invite health professionals to talk to pupils about the dangers of smoking and it offers help and advice to stop.

It states: “All staff, including support staff, work to remove barriers to learning, and support the pastoral needs of learners.”

It also insists they work to provide positive role models.

A recent Ofsted report noted that pupils at Elmete had high confidence in staff.

The 75 pupils aged 11 to 16 have challenges and difficulties which require them to be taught outside mainstream education.