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Drugs teaching is a war for life

Graeme Pearson

director general, SCDEA

Max Cruickshank will no doubt be relieved to hear that I, like him, think police officers are not the best educators and that teaching drugs education is best left to educationists (TESS last week).

As Mr Cruickshank rightly points out, police policy on drugs, like education policy, has not been on the right tracks in the past 45 years. I wish to reassure him that I do not want a police officer in every classroom.

Today's Scottish Executive drug policy has moved on from the simple messages of the past to a three-pronged united strategy with health, education and law enforcement experts working together to attempt to create a better future for our youngsters. This is a policy I support wholeheartedly.

Youngsters are not stupid and half-hour lessons once in a blue moon do not educate them for the real challenges they face in their schools, streets and homes. We need a sophisticated drug policy to match the sophisticated, modern lifestyles of our children.

What specialist police officers can deliver is the knowledge to support our teachers. In recent years, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency has developed innovative drug education programmes including Choices for Life, where P7 children are taken to a rock concert which is interspersed with drugs messages via interactive games and theatre and film presentations. It has enjoyed enormous success.

Such innovations are praised in the Scottish Executive report, Revitalising Drug Education Helping Pupils Face Facts, published last March. As well as Choices for Life, the report highligh the success of the DVD Get Real, produced by the SCDEA.

Last week, a teenager in Paisley was jailed for four years for an attack carried out when he was 16; he had started taking cannabis when we was eight. Educationists as well as law enforcement officers have failed to get our essage across to him. We have to work together for all our children. This is not a war on drugs it is a war for life.

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