Short, sharp and to the point;Leading Article;Opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00
SOME official documents should receive an unguarded welcome in schools, which usually treat "guidelines" as a euphemism for yet more burdens. In their eventual final form, the draft suggestions (page five) for how schools handle drug incidents and misuse will eventually become a repository of good advice to which a headteacher turns when problems arise.

Most secondary schools have a drugs policy. It has two parts - what pupils should understand as part of their education and what schools should do when an "incident" occurs. Primary schools have had fewer problems to cope with but, as a recent succession of incidents showed, it is more straightforward to incorporate drugs education into a primary school's development plan and curriculum than to face the media when a storm blows up.

Ken Corsar's drug safety team has allied precision in argument to clarity of expression. There is no messing with notions of high-sounding "confidentiality" when children's well-being is at stake: the recipient of information about drug misuse cannot keep quiet. Chapters crisply set out what immediate steps should be taken if a pupil, staff member or outsider is involved in an incident.

Youth crime and drug taking are connected. The Executive has declared long term war on crime, and will eventually have to tackle the question of what constitutes illegal drug use. In drugs education, certainly at secondary level, teachers cannot avoid the debate about decriminalising cannabis. But that argument has to be detached from problems of procedure facing heads, who will be grateful for the new practical support.

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