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Last updated on 28 November 2018
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It’s for you to decide whether staff can drink alcohol at social events like Christmas parties. Find out what you should consider, how you might fund it and take a look at examples of how other schools approach this issue.

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  1. It's up to you - there's no official guidance on this
  2. Should we?
  3. Can we use the school budget?
  4. What about other school funds? 
  5. What do other schools do?

It's up to you - there's no official guidance on this

The Department for Education doesn't have specific rules on this. So whether staff can pop a cork or two is at the discretion of the headteacher and the governing board. 

Check with your local authority (LA) first if you're a maintained school because they may have their own rules. 

Should we?

Not if the event is during the school day.

Maintained schools should check if their LA has a policy on this

If it isn't during the school day, feel free! But remember:

  • Your duty of care to your staff
  • You may be liable for incidents or accidents that occur as a result of alcohol consumption (even if the event is off the school premises)
  • Drunken behaviour by staff could bring the school into disrepute if members of the local community see it

You should:

  • Remind staff that they're expected to behave appropriately and adhere to the staff code of conduct
  • Consider setting a limit on the number of drinks per person

This advice comes from the NAHT and the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL).

Can we use the school budget?

Maintained schools

Check if your LA has a policy on this, and adhere to that.

If they allow it (or don't have a policy on it), you should get your governing board to approve it first. 

This advice came from ASCL and Trevor Bailey, our associate expert. 


You shouldn't use the school budget to buy alcohol. 

This is because the Education and Skills Funding Agency considers alcohol an "irregular expenditure not for the purpose intended".

This is set out in paragraph 9.1.22 of the Academies Accounts Direction.

Flowers? Chocolates?

If you're thinking about buying gifts for school staff, read our article first.

It explains when you might be able to use the school budget, and when a staff collection is more appropriate. 

What about other school funds? 

If you want to use a voluntary fund or staff well-being fund, check that you're allowed to use the funds in this way. This should be set out in relevant finance policies.

Make sure parents wouldn't object if you want to use funds they helped raise. Chat with the head of the PTA, or check relevant policies. 

Trevor explained this to us. 

What do other schools do?

Medium-size community primary

Onslow Infant School in Surrey specifies in its drug and alcohol policy that alcohol consumption is prohibited during the working day (page 3).

It adds that the headteacher must be consulted and provide permission before any alcohol is arranged at a school function.

You can download the policy from this page

Medium-size voluntary aided primary

St Mary and St Pancras Church of England (CofE) Primary School in Camden says in its drugs policy that there are occasions when alcohol is allowed at school. These could be parent events and staff social events (see page 6).

You can download the drugs policy from this page.

Large secondary academy

Cannock Chase High School in Staffordshire explains in its staff code of conduct that alcohol may be consumed responsibly on the school premises when the headteacher has given express permission, such as during an evening or weekend social function or a celebration event.

You can download the staff code of conduct from the school website.


Trevor Bailey has extensive experience in school leadership and management. He was a secondary school headteacher for 14 years.

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