Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Teachers are ‘being turned into social workers’

The Telegraph reports on a book written by the Head Teachers of a number of independent schools.  The report includes a quote from Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul’s:

“We have failed to meet basic standards in core subjects in that curriculum whilst expanding the number of subjects massively. We have shifted a whole load of society’s conscience on to that curriculum, making teachers and schools more and more responsible for preaching against drug misuse, teenage pregnancy and a host of other problems–in effect, we have sought to replace the Vicar of the Established Church by the teacher in the Educational Establishment,” he said.

Filed under: drug education, independent schools

Dealing with drugs in the schoolyard

After the ‘no second chances’ approach outlined by Dr Seldon recently, The Daily Telegraph take a wider look at the issue of illegal drugs and private school’s responses.

The story gives those who don’t believe that Dr Seldon is getting it right a chance to put their views across:

“If there’s no chink of light, no second chance, it makes it more likely that people won’t come forward with information and that the problem will remain in the shadows,” says Mark Pyper, head of Gordonstoun.

He scrapped the school’s zero-tolerance policy on his arrival, 17 years ago, and feels that his aim to minimise drug abuse, and move towards eradicating it, has been more effectively achieved as a result.

 Another who sees things differently to Dr Seldon says:

“I loathe cannabis and believe it to be a lethal drug,” says Dr Stephen [High Master of St Paul’s School in London]. “That said, to operate a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy is to deny the nature of childhood. You also tend to find that parents are 100 per cent in favour of a zero-tolerance policy until it’s their child who’s caught.

“As for children in the private sector being more vulnerable to drugs, I don’t agree. I feel immense sorrow for Elizabeth Burton-Phillips and for her loss but, in my experience, drugs are just as prevalent in the State sector as in independent schools. None of us should be complacent.”

In the only story I can recall seeing about the broader way that the independent sector are developing school drug policies it seems that the hard-line approach was very much in the minority:

The number of independent schools which have a policy of expelling pupils with a drug habit has more than halved over the past five years. Fewer than one in 30 still use a hardline approach.

Filed under: illegal drugs, independent schools, school drug policy,

Public schools are in denial over drugs, says mother of boy who died a heroin addict

The Daily Mail cover a speech by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips.  She makes the point that drugs can cause harms to pupils at independent schools:

“Could it be that one of the significant problems that middle class youth face in our independent schools is denial that your school could ever have any drug problem or the foolish belief that cannabis is not that serious?

“As one middle-class parent remarked to me recently ‘Elizabeth, of course we are lucky, we don’t have a problem with drugs in our schools in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Eton, because the Queen lives here. This is why we pay our fees’.”

The story says she argued that pupils in independent schools can lack family life and don’t recieve education on how drug dealers groom young people into becoming dependent.

Update –  This is also covered by The Guardian, The Independent, The Evening Standard (x2) and The Telegraph.

Filed under: independent schools, school drug policy

Call for sniffer dogs in schools

The BBC carries a call from Dr Seldon, the ubiquitous head of Wellington College for the government to pay for sniffer dogs:

Dr Anthony Seldon

Sniffer dogs are hired to search the premises at Wellington every term.

“The children never know when they’re coming in and where they’re going,” said Dr Seldon.

“It helps them realise they can’t get away with it. The amount of problems I’ve had has dwindled to insignificance.”

The DfES points out that they have some guidance on this, and that deploying sniffer dogs is an operational decision best left to individual headteachers. The guidance has this to say about the use of dogs for deterrent effect:

Involvement of sniffer dogs purely as a deterrent

A headteacher requesting the use of sniffer dogs solely as a deterrent, where there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion and where prior consent has not been sought, will need to consider possible challenges by parents and pupils under the Human Rights Act.

Schools should ensure that if sniffer dogs are used for detection or as a deterrent, they form part of an on-going whole school approach to managing drugs on school premises rather than an isolated action.

Furthermore, the police guidance issued by ACPO says:

Involvement of sniffer dogs at the request of the headteacher

Where a school believes that there is reasonable evidence of possession or supply of suspected illegal drugs they should consult their local police. The advice from ACPO is that local police, if they are to respond with the use of sniffer dogs, should do so as part of a warrant-led operation, unless evidence may be lost by delaying the search.

However, schools considering sniffer dog searches without the authority of a police warrant should exercise extreme caution before doing so. They should consider very carefully whether such action:

  • is consistent with the pastoral responsibility of the school to create a supportive environment is culturally insensitive – for example, dogs are considered unclean in Muslim and Buddhist cultures
  • will lead to labelling and be damaging to pupils concerned
  • will result in appropriate support for pupils most in need
  • is feasible and an effective use of school resources, and those of the police, where involved.

Finally, the government’s advisory committee in their Pathways to Problems report says:

We recommend that drug testing and sniffer dogs should not be used in schools. We consider that the complex ethical, technical and organisational issues, the potential impact on the school-pupil relationship and the costs would not be offset by the potential gains.

Dr Seldon also expresses the view that there should be no “second chances” for those caught in possession of illegal drugs. I’m sure that as Dr Seldon runs an independent school he won’t have to worry about this case, or what the DfES guidance has to say about appropriate sanctions:

Exclusion should only be considered for serious breaches of the school’s behaviour policy, and should not be imposed without a thorough investigation unless there is an immediate threat to the safety of others in the school or the pupil concerned. It should not be used if alternative solutions have the potential to achieve a change in the pupil’s behaviour and are not detrimental to the whole school community.

I’ve taken a look at the Wellington College website, but can’t find a copy of their drug or behaviour policy there.

I wonder if Dr Seldon is aware that one of the risk factors for future problematic drug use is being labelled a drug user? And if so whether he thinks he might be adding to the risks his pupils face?

Filed under: independent schools, school drug policy, sniffer dogs

Drugs epidemic in top public schools

The Independent has run a story on changing approaches to drug incidents in public schools:

A crisis over drug abuse in Britain’s top public schools has prompted the creation of rehabilitation and counselling schemes in a radical overhaul of ways of dealing with offending pupils.

The ditching of the schools’ so-called ‘zero tolerance’ approach is a stark admission that the expulsion of pupils caught using drugs has failed.

The article points out:

The number of independent schools which have a policy of expelling pupils with a drug habit has more than halved over the past five years. Fewer than one in 30 still use a hardline approach.

In a seperate story the same paper examines the approach that Eton is taking, including employing a counsellor, using treatment clinics and drug-testing contracts.

Filed under: independent schools

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021