Education Column: School pupils need to given drugs education delivered by experts

A police officer speaks to school pupils about drug use
A police officer speaks to school pupils about drug use

Drug enforcement officers and sniffer dogs searched a South Yorkshire secondary school this week in a move aimed at deterring the use of illegal substances.

Police went into classrooms where lessons were taking place to see if their dogs could identify any students carrying drugs.

The surprise move was organised by the headteacher and the police, who have been working together to discourage drug use among young people.

None of the staff or students had any idea that the sudden drug-check would take place.

A letter was sent home to parents to explain that what had taken place was a routine procedure. Some have been supportive, while others were alarmed to see the operation take place.

It’s a sad reflection of our society that these kind of snap drug searches have to take place. But national surveys do show that drug use among young people is significant and that some of that usage and distribution is taking place in schools.

Police turning up at a school to carry out a random search is not as unusual as you may think. These things happen regularly up and down the country.

Fortunately, I’m told the search at one of our schools this week didn’t unearth any students carrying a stash of illegal drugs.

But the operation was far from a waste of time; it’s all about prevention and, of course, anybody who has taken drugs into that school will now think twice about ever doing it again.

The message will also start to spread between friends at different schools. If young drug users are aware searches are taking place in secondary schools, action such as that taken by police this week will begin to form a valuable deterrent.

Drug use by school-age children is an increasing problem and one that needs to be tackled in many different ways.

The headteacher who worked with police to bring in the sniffer dogs and search the school buildings is being extremely proactive and should be pleased with their forward-thinking, multi-agency approach. A good school, of course, needs a drug policy that focuses on preventative measures as well. And this is an area where there is a big difference between how effective schools are.

While all schools will teach about the dangers of drugs, it is done in vastly different ways. Some will tackle it as a whole-year assembly with outside speakers delivering hard-hitting presentations. Others will make sure it is covered as part of the PSHE programme. And this is where the dangers lie. If something as crucial as the danger of drugs is actually left to form tutors to squeeze in to their already jam-packed form period, there is a possibility that it will not be dealt with effectively.

These public health issues need properly timetabling and delivering to students in a manner that is both interesting and engaging in order to make sure it’s effective.

The lessons need planning and delivering by experts – too often I see major issues such as the impact of drugs delivered by teachers who happen to have spare space on their timetable.

And let’s not forget how serious a problem drugs in school is becoming. Nationally, surveys have revealed some students start taking drugs regularly at the young age of 11 and the situation is worse among boys.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that some police searches in schools have revealed offenders.

Drugs confiscated in British schools include cannabis, cocaine, LSD, amphetamine, heroin and ecstasy.

The situation has not yet reached the situation in the United States, where some schools carry out drug tests on students before they take part in sporting and other school-related activities.

I hope we never get to the stage in this country where Year 9 boys preparing for a football tournament are expected to take part in a drugs test beforehand. Headteachers need to be vigilant when dealing with drug use – whether organising police searches or planning curriculum time.