Teacher Talk

Peter Walker is head teacher of the Abbey School in Faversham, Kent. He used to sit on the Government's advisory council on the misuse of drugs
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Tony Blair has been advocating random drug-testing in schools. What do you make of this?

I agree with his views. Despite drug education, we still have problems, and routine testing could prove to be a sensible preventative measure. However, it is an expensive process and would need a lot of funding. I would like to introduce it at my school, but can't afford to. I gladly let Kent police come to my school last year to demonstrate how they use sniffer dogs to catch drug users and dealers. It was quite spectacular. Six members of staff stood on stage in the school hall, one of whom had had cannabis planted on them. The dog sniffed it out straight away. The children were very struck by the demonstration.

How serious do you think the drug problem is in British schools?

Various studies have indicated that 50 per cent of 15-year-olds have taken drugs, but it is a misconception that the problem is happening mainly within schools. There are many indications that the most likely place for drug-taking is in a person's own home or in a friend's home.

How would you deal with someone who was caught smoking cannabis for the first time?

I would talk to them about who else was involved and whether or not they have a habit, making sure that I had a witness with me. I would ideally want to involve the parents. Also, as a teacher, one needs a good working relationship with the police because they often have access to good support programmes. Teachers need to ask these students why they are taking drugs, and let them know that they can get counselling of some sort. If we start kicking out everyone who has tried some drug or other, our schools will be half-empty. The priority in drug education is to put young people in the position where they can make their own healthy but informed choices.

Have you ever caught anyone pushing drugs in your school, and if so, how did you deal with it?

Yes. I didn't make a big issue of it, they just had to leave my school - permanent expulsion. What one must never do is to give publicity to particular cases - that certainly doesn't help the individuals involved.

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