Pupils at independent schools are more at risk of falling prey to drug dealers because they have more money, the annual meeting of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference was told. Dealers groom pupils because they can charge them double for drugs after getting them hooked.
The testing regime, both in independent and state schools, is also pushing children to experiment with drugs as a means of escaping stress, it was claimed.
Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, head of RE at Godstowe prep school in High Wycombe, whose son committed suicide four years ago after battling drug addiction, told the headteachers that some schools and pupils failed to take drugs seriously.
"I have worked in the independent sector for 35 years," she said. "I have observed that a large number of pupils in the senior schools feel drugs cannot touch them. Sometimes, sadly, they are not grounded in family life and are 'compensated' by having too much money. The dealers are very aware of this."
Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, who takes a zero-tolerance approach to drugs in his school, said the competitive national tests made pupils anxious and that drugs were used to relieve stress.
Nigel Richardson, head of the Perse School in Cambridge, said independents took the problem very seriously. "Any secondary head who says there are no drugs in his school is a fool or a liar," he said.