Some of those problems will from time to time be drugs-related. An aerosol can is found in the pupils' toilets; a parent approaches the school, concerned that her child is smoking cannabis; the local paper runs a piece about allegations of drug-dealing on school premises. There can be few secondary schools in the country that have not yet had to deal with problems such as these. Governing bodies become involved in many of the incidents, albeit sometimes after they have happened, but what do governors really know about the subject and have they any expertise in dealing with it?
There will shortly be no excuse for ignorance, now that Mrs Shepherd has announced the Department for Education's new draft circular on drugs in schools. This will require them to address both dealing with drug-related incidents in school and drug education in the curriculum. Governors will, it seems, have little option but to become better acquainted with the territory.
A new training package, produced and funded by TACADE (The Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drug Education) and the London Drug Policy Forum is now available for use by those who have a brief to train governors local authority governor training units, healthdrug education advisory teachers, consultant training agencies or senior teachers with training skills, to name but a few.
The material, which has been thoroughly tested and commented on by a range of trainers, advisers and governors from five London boroughs, is a practical guide to raising awareness of drug-related issues and designing a drugs policy in schools.
Using a range of 16 activities which can be tackled in a variety of training settings, participants are taken through exercises which help them acquire information, explore their own attitudes to drugs, address drug education in the curriculum and policy development.
The material is easy to follow and attractively packaged. There is good background information both for the trainers and for the governors themselves to take back to the school.
I have been concerned about how easy or not it is to get governors to come to training sessions, having run similar ones in the past to very low numbers on occasions. However, speaking to people involved in setting up the pilot training in two boroughs, I was assured that there was a lot of interest and enthusiasm to attend the training, even whole-day sessions on Saturdays.
I can wholeheartedly recommend these materials and would want to see them being used all over the country. As for schools that deny they have a drug problem, in the words of Commander John Grieve, chair of the Metropolitan Police drugs strategy working group, "they just haven't looked for it yet".