EDUCATION SECRETARY Gillian Shephard a fortnight ago announced a new drive to combat drug abuse in schools with the launch of the Government's White Paper, 'Tackling Drugs Together'.
The new package includes guidance for teachers on:
• How to spot symptoms of drug abuse • How to deal effectively with drug-related incidents in schools • The statutory position on drug education in schools • How lessons can help get across the message of the dangers of drugs It also contains: • Drug education resources for • schools, (including books,
leaflets, pamphlets and wallcharts for pupils; information and guidance materials for teachers; and information for parents and governors)
• Information on the monitoring of schools' drugs education by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) • Details of the management of drug-related incidents on school premises as part of OFSTED's regular inspections programme.
TiE GOVERNMENT IS supporting, to the tune of £6 million, spending on drugs education training for teachers and plans to help set up 16 innovative projects around the country.
Mrs Shephard said: "It would be naive to assume that education in schools can solve the drugs problem. There are no easy answers; that is why it is so Important for drugs prevention to he addressed by as many organisations and on as many fronts as possible."
A circular accompanying the White Paper stresses: "There are no 'no-go areas' for illegal drugs. Drug misuse extends across socio-economic and ethnic boundaries. Educationally successful young people are just as likely to find themselves at risk. No school can afford to be complacent or to think its children are not at risk."
What sort of drugs?
THE MAIN DRUGS misused are:
• Opiates (e.g. heroin) • Stimulants (e.g. cocaine, amphetamines, Ecstasy) • Tranquillisers (e.g. temazepam) • Hallucinogens (e.g. LSD) • Cannabinoids (e.g. cannabis) It is, however, equally important for schools to know about the legal drugs which are open to abuse, and which typically lead on to the harder, illegal ones. These are tobacco, volatile substances (solvents), alcohol and anabolic steroids.
The most easily accessible of these legal drugs are tobacco (with smoking being the largest preventable cause of death, claiming 90,000 lives a year in England alone), and alcohol, socially acceptable from a young age, but potentially lethal if used in combination with other drugs. Volatile substances include adhesives, cigarette lighter refills and paint stripper, so are in common use around the home. Anabolic steroids, though not so easily come by, may be misused by young people keen to achieve success in competitive sport, or become more physically attractive.
The warning signs
DETECTING DRUG misuse at an early stage is extremely important as it can prevent further abuse. Teachers should be alert to some of the signs which indicate that a pupil may be misusing drugs.
Some or the warning signs are given as: • Changes in attendance, and an unwillingness to take part in school activities.
• Decline in academic performance.
• Unusual outbreaks of temper, marked mood swings, restlessness or irritability.
• Parental reports that more time is being spent away from home, possibly with new or older friends.
• Excessive spending or borrowing of money.
• Stealing money or goods.
• Excessive tiredness without obvious cause.
• No interest in physical appearance.
• Sores or rashes, especially on the mouth or nose. • Lack of appetite.
• Heavy use of scents, etc. to disguise the smell of drugs.
• Wearing sunglasses at inappropriate times (to hide dilated or constricted pupils).
The White Paper states that head teachers are responsible for arranging checks of the school site for signs of drug misuse, and schools should consider counselling for any pupils known to have experimented with illegal drugs (or to be at risk of doing so).
Legally, school staff may take temporary possession of a suspect substance, and can search a pupil's locker or desk if they have reasonable cause to believe that it contains any illegal items, including drugs.
It also suggests that schools should consider displaying details of local telephone helplines for pupils who may want to seek confidential advice and support on drug problems.
Rim fitrther information, write to Richard Page at School Curriculum Branch, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT