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Drugs (Schools)

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what plans he has to introduce random drug testing in schools; and what assessment has been made of levels of drug taking in schools, and its effects; [121517](2) what punishment may be given to pupils found to have

(a) dealt drugs and (b) taken drugs on school premises; and if he will make a statement on measures taken since 1997 to reduce drug abuse in schools; [121518]

(3) what lessons on the dangers of drugs and drug taking are given to school pupils as a part of the curriculum; and what assessment he has made of the value this form of information. [121519]

Drug education should be a part of every school's curriculum. There is a statutory requirement for drug education in the National Curriculum Science Order. Pupils should be taught about the role of drugs as medicines; the effects on the human body of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and how these relate to their personal health and how the abuse of alcohol, solvents, tobacco and other drugs affects health. This represents the statutory minimum. Schools are expected to use the non-statutory frameworks for PSHE and Citizenship at key stages 1 and 2, PSHE at key stages 3 and 4 and the Citizenship programme of study at key stages 3 and 4 as the context for developing drug education. We believe drug education in schools has an essential role to play in enabling pupils to develop their knowledge, skills, attitudes and understanding about drugs.Since 1997, we have taken a range of measures to tackle drug misuse in schools. We have allocated over £68 million to support drug alcohol and tobacco education and prevention in schools, including £17.5 million this year. From April 2001, we have supported the appointment of Schools Drug Advisors to help them deliver drug education and support tailored to the needs of pupils. We have supported the development of training packages to support professionals deliver effective drug education. We are also supporting a national five year research programme called "Blueprint" to test the effectiveness of drug education initiatives in schools. It will make a significant contribution to developing a UK evidence based for drug, alcohol and tobacco education.It is for schools in full consultation with local partners, including the police, to decide on appropriate strategies, including drug testing, for detecting illegal drug possession or use by pupils. Where schools adopt such strategies they should make sure, in advance, that they have clear evidence of consent. We have offered guidance on this issue in the draft document "Drugs: Guidance for schools (April 2003)". The Department of Health conducts regular surveys on the level of drug taking among young people. Data on the levels of drug taking in schools is not collected separately. The adverse effects of drug taking among young people are well documented and are highlighted in the Government's "Updated Drug Strategy 2002".Schools should develop a range of options for responding to the identified needs of those involved in a drug incident. These could range from early intervention work with pupils through to fixed period and permanent exclusions. The response should always be appropriate to the seriousness of the incident, the needs of the pupil, other pupils, the school and the community and be consistent with school rules. Responses to drug use and sanctions should be contained in the school's drug policy and be developed through wide consultation with members of the school community.