Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Testing Teachers?

While the government have moved away from randomly testing pupils for illegal drug use, the public think that teachers should be added to the list of employees that are routinely tested.

A survey carried out by ICM for the Observer found that:

85 per cent now feel that police officers should undergo routine testing to see if they have been using illicit substances compared with 61 per cent six years ago, when The Observer last conducted an in-depth poll on drugs. Just 46 per cent believed teachers should face testing then; now 68 per cent do. The same trend emerged for pilots, drivers, doctors and nurses.

When Neil McKeganey called for research on drug testing on pupils and teachers in Scotland a couple of years ago the concept was condemned as “unethical” by teaching unions and education leaders and I doubt they would see things differently today.

Part of the difficulty I have with polls like this one is that people are asked to give opinions without any context.  I wonder whether the answers would change if the public were aware of the costs of undertaking testing.

You may remember that, when the DIP programme was carrying out testing of young people, the set up costs were in the range of £7,000 to £35,000, while running costs ranged from £10,000 to £44,000 and the cost per test were between £57 to £121.  I’ve no way of knowing whether these costs are a reasonable equivalent for the sort of testing that the Observer is asking about, but I’d argue that it would be critical information I’d want to consider were I a policy maker in the DCSF.

As far as I can assertain there were 441,200 full time equivalent regular teachers in maintained schools in England in January 2008, and 25,000 schools.

All of which is before we get the tricky question of whether testing is an effective way of reducing the problems that drugs cause.

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Filed under: random drug testing, teachers

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