Schools drafted in war on drugs;News amp; Opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00
ALL SCHOOLS and education authorities were urged this week to draw up written policies for dealing with drug misuse and to have nominated members of staff trained to handle incidents.

In an earnest of joined-up government, new guidelines on "the management of drug misuse in schools" have been issued for consultation by Sam Galbraith, the Children and Education Minister, and Angus MacKay, the Deputy Minister for Justice. They were developed by the national school drug safety team set up last year following the discovery of heroin in a pupil's schoolbag at a Glasgow primary.

The guidelines are in three parts - school preparedness and procedures to anticipate any problems; handling incidents of drug misuse; and follow-up action. The 52-page document sets out "key aspects of an effective response" detailing what schools should do when interviewing pupils and responding to the media.

Mr Galbraith said the aim was to ensure "a consistent approach".

An HMI report in March found 60 per cent of primaries did not have a policy on drugs incidents and relied on "insecure, informal arrangements". The figure for secondaries was 15 per cent.

The Inspectorate also reported that 40 per cent of the primaries surveyed - 87 out of 222 - did not educate all their pupils about the dangers of drugs. This was described by Helen Liddell, Education Minister at the time, as "not acceptable".

Ken Corsar, Glasgow's director of education, who chairs the drug safety team, stressed that the guidance manual was in draft form and there would be a consultation period lasting two months. Although the document was based on good practice in a number of authorities, any practical concerns could be fed in. A laminated card would act as a "ready reckoner" for staff who had to act in a drugs emergency. Every teacher would have one.

After the final guidelines have been issued, Mr Corsar and his colleagues will turn their attention to the wider issue of drug education in schools including the promotion of best practice.

Drugs education is likely to emerge as a key priority for Scottish Executive ministers as part of their strategy to fight youth crime. Unprecedently, the entire agenda for Tuesday's Cabinet in Edinburgh was devoted to the first in a series of meetings on youth crime, which costs an estimated pound;730 million a year in Scotland.

Leading article, page 22

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