Blair provokes fury over school drug tests

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair provoked fury yesterday from drugs charities and some teachers' leaders by pledging his support for random drug tests on pupils in schools.

The Prime Minister said new guidance to be issued to schools nationwide next month would offer support to headteachers to carry out random drug tests. But a leading drugs charity warned last night that the move would drive the drug culture "further underground'' and destroy relationships of trust between pupils and schools. One teachers' leader said the plans would be "unworkable''.

Mr Blair said in the News of the World yesterday: "We can't force them to do it but if heads believe they have a problem in their school then they should be able to do random drug testing. Guidance will be given for headteachers next month, which is going to give them specifically the power to do random drug testing within their schools. Some headteachers may worry that, if they go down this path, they are declaring there is a problem within their school. But, in my view, the local community is probably perfectly well aware there is a problem.''

The tests would be carried out through urine samples or allowing police with sniffer dogs on to the premises. The Department for Education and Skills saidthat schools already have the power to carry out random drug tests - providing they have the support of parents.

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the drugs charity DrugScope, said the plan would do nothing to reduce drug abuse among pupils. He said: "We don't accept that drug testing and the random use of sniffer dogs are an appropriate or effective response to the drug use amongst children and young people. These measures risk driving drug use further underground, an increase in truancies and exclusions, and a breakdown in trust between pupils and schools.''