Let's be safe, sensible and social

1st February 2008 at 00:00
"Drugs" denote a basket of behaviour-changing substances. For some people the basket contains prescription medicines, for others it is filled with class A, B and C: illegal drugs, lighter-fuel and glue. Today, many would include the destroyers of millions of lives: alcohol and tobacco. "Safe, Sensible and Social" is the title of the review of the National Alcohol Strategy, which aims to change the UK alcohol consumption culture. Schools have a part to play in changing all drug-related cultures through curriculum programmes.

Governors' curriculum responsibilites include ensuring that children receive Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE). Building self-esteem and decision-making skills are fundamental to safe, sensible and social drug use. Last year, Ofsted reported that standards in this area had risen over the past five years and was continuing to do so. Agreeing and monitoring a school's drug education policy and considering its resource implications are items for the governors' agenda. Questions for governors agreeing the statutory Pupil Discipline Policy include appropriate sanctions for pupils found with drugs, using drugs or, more serious still, trafficking in drugs.

No matter how vigilant the headteacher, any day a drug-related incident can occur within a school: an infant innocently bringing a package of cannabis resin for the treasure table; a teacher with a hidden bottle of whisky in the stock cupboard; a parent trafficking cocaine outside the school gate; a governor falling asleep from an overdose of valium. All require different responses. While the head has overall responsibility for drug-related issues and for dealing with parent and media inquiries, he or she should be able to rely on trained governors to be involved in the decision-making process and in supporting the pastoral team managing such incidents.

(Acknowledgement: "Hitting the Target: Drug policy and guidance for educational settings", written by Patrick Hargreaves for Durham County Council.)

Carol Woodhouse, Member of the board of directors, the National Governors Association.

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