Patrick Tobin, head of Stewart's Melville College in Edinburgh and its sister Mary Erskine School, told a conference of the Movement for Christian Democracy at Musselburgh: "I have a sneaking suspicion that today's youngsters will be wiser, more mature parents than those of the last generation or two."
Mr Tobin took action against pupils allegedly involved in drug supply and use the day after he endorsed a report from the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, of which he is immediate past chairman, recommending a change in schools' "zero option" policy of automatically expelling pupils for drug offences.
The report, partly based on independent school pupils' evidence on drug and alcohol abuse, found that the "zero option" of prohibition and severe penalties might help to reduce the proliferation of drug abuse and drinking but would not solve the problem.
The report found 60 per cent of pupils in the lower sixth had been offered illegal drugs, 43 per cent had experimented and 12 per cent were regular users, mostly cannabis. Nearly 30 per cent of younger pupils had experimented.
Mr Tobin told the conference earlier this month: "Day schools do not generally have to confront alcohol or drugs problems on the premises. The worst we are likely to confront is poor attendance on a Monday morning, although every now and then there are startling reminders of the weekend world of the adolescent peer group."
Independent schools showed an "abiding sign of contradiction", Mr Tobin said, but one that could produce young people with sound values. "Our market depends so much on the parental perception that material advantage may be bought for their children. Yet our best teachers demonstrate the values of service, and hundreds of our pupils catch the message."
Ready for battle, page 22