I'm an NQT in a challenging London school and have had pupils turn up to class high on drugs. I can't prove it as such, and some of these kids are volatile. How should I deal with the situation?
What you said
"You could tackle the behaviour that ensues, rather than accusing them. So if they're off-task or talking too much, you could raise concerns that way."
"You have a duty to report your concerns to the member of staff in charge of pupil welfare. They will have received additional training on these things and know where to turn for support."
The expert view
First, does the school have a drugs policy, and is there a member of staff responsible for pastoral care? No teacher should be asked to deal with this kind of situation alone.
While the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act (2009) grants English schools powers to search pupils on the premises if they suspect drug use, Scottish schools do not have that right unless a pupil agrees; police would have to be called in to do it. School-wide measures focusing on prevention and education are more likely to resolve the issue in the long run. A good policy should challenge student attitudes and be clear on acceptable behaviour.
If you suspect drug use, any search must be carried out in the presence of a colleague. This will minimise risk and protect you from any charge of possession of a controlled substance, although there is a strong defence if the purpose was to prevent a crime being committed and reasonable steps were taken to destroy the substance or deliver it to a person lawfully entitled to take custody. Responsibility for the journey between home and school is shared with the parents or carers, so even if drug use is off site, the school still has an obligation to respond to suspicions.
Drug use rarely occurs in isolation. A chaotic home life, peer pressure or parental drug use could all play a part. Consider whether a student has any treatment needs or if there is a child protection issue.
Harry Shapiro is DrugScope's director of communications. www.drugscope.org.uk. For more behaviour advice, go to www.tes.co.ukbehaviourforum.