Drugs in Schools

10 June 2009
The Evening Standard

I have only come across a few children high on drugs in school time in all my sixteen years as a teacher in various London comprehensives. However, while drug taking in school is rare, I know many pupils take drugs away from the prying eyes of adults: often they’ve bought the drugs from a school friend. The fact that the country is flooded with illegal drugs means that even young children know what a spliff is, someone who takes drugs and where to score. Interestingly, during my research for my new book The New School Rules, I interviewed parents and pupils from numerous schools and found out that many drug-dealers target prosperous schools and often hang around their gates because wealthy students have the cash. I came across a couple of schools who had hired security guards to keep the dealers away.
The trouble is that the “just-say-no” message hasn’t worked. Furthermore, many students are bored rigid by their drugs lessons: too often it means filling in endless worksheets. Unfortunately, even Theatre-In-Education companies who put on worthy plays about the dangers of drugs for numerous schools don’t have much impact because the plays are perceived to be “made-up” and not “real”. The best lessons are where drugs workers – who are often ex-addicts or dealers – come into schools and show pupils samples of drugs and explain their medical effects quite clinically, often speaking about their own personal traumas with drugs. Then the students really listen. They want to know the truth, not a lot of silly propaganda.
The best thing a parent can do to stop their child being sucked into taking illegal drugs is to explain their fears calmly to their child, talk about the “real” consequences and give their child strategies for resisting peer pressure. Most children who become addicted to drugs lack confidence and find initially that taking drugs makes them feel better about themselves. Happy children rarely become sucked into the nightmare of addiction.

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