`I'm giving you this heroin, teacher. It's killing my mum and my dad'

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THE EYES are dark, deep-set and wild - darting around the rank, dingy room as the man gabbles in unconnected sentences. He is Ian Boswell, stepfather of the seven-year-old boy who, it emerged yesterday, took heroin into his Stirling primary school in an poignant attempt to save his mother's life.

Boswell, a self-confessed "smack" addict who has been in and out of prison, spent 20 minutes talking around the issue before finally admitting that it was "his boy" who everyone was talking about yesterday. Smiling pictures of the lad are on the wall, cheerful and healthy-looking. In one, he is sitting on a sofa with an arm around his younger brother.

"He knows we both do smack, but he didn't get the gear from this house. He found it in the close outside," said Boswell. He confirmed that the boy had taken it to his teacher, saying: "I don't want my mum and dad taking this because they might take too much and kill themselves."

Drawing furiously on a roll-up cigarette, while stressing that the boy's mother was now trying to give up drugs, Boswell added: "He's just a wee boy. It was a cry for help, that's all."

Neither the boy nor his mother were at home yesterday. There was no electricity, Boswell explained. In order to get into the flat, he had kicked the door in. "Don't worry, it's been done before," he said, before pushing the lintel back into place and picking up the post.

In other tenements along the street, and outside Borestone Primary School a few hundred yards away, young mothers were expressing their shock at what had been happening. The same scenes had been played out in Govan, south Glasgow, just four days before following another school drugs find. Now the whole country is asking where it will happen next and the Government has stepped into the row.

The so-called drugs Tsar, Keith Hellawell, said bluntly that the incidents reflected the "reality" of children growing up in homes and communities where people were abusing substances. "The reality is when their parents use drugs, their brothers and sisters use drugs, or friends of the family. Younger and younger children are being exposed to them," he said.

"There are people who argue and say: `we're not causing any damage or danger by using these substances'. But they need to stop it and we need to deal with it."

Children as young as five, he said, were already coming to school knowing about drugs.

"School is the one place where you think your kids are safe," said one mother in Stirling. "You know that it goes about, and there is a lot of it on this street, but you never ever think that a kid is going to take it to school."

Parents of the school's 400 pupils all received a letter about the incident three weeks ago, but some complained that it seemed to be playing the matter down. Others said that the boy should be excluded, saying that he was a bully and didn't deserve a second chance.

Standing at her window, a few doors away from the boy's home, one mother counted aloud the six users who lived on the street. "And those are just the ones I know about," she said. "There's probably others."

On a sunny autumn day, this seems an unlikely place to find heroin haunts. At the bottom of the street, the horizon opens up to give stunning views over to the Trossachs with their highest summits white from the year's first snowfalls. From the school playground, the Ochil hills can be glimpsed through the surrounding houses, while the hill above is dominated by a mounted statue of Robert the Bruce outside the Bannockburn Heritage Centre.

But on parts of the estate there is a predominance of single-parent families, benefit dependency and a sense of quiet desperation, levened with trench humour. At the top of one stairwell, or "close", the trap-door to the loft area is decorated with the words "Big Drugs Stash Here".

Locals say that the problem is fairly new, starting from the time last year when some new people moved in and started dealing. Now kids and their parents regularly find needles on the street, or in the common areas behind the flats where the children play. There have been a number of alarms when it was feared that the "weans" have pricked themselves, but so far the ultimate disaster of infection from a used needle has not happened.

"These people are just scum. They should be in jail, it's as simple as that," said another mother. "What are the police doing?" The views and the fears expressed in Stirling were eerily reminiscent of those encountered in Govan earlier this week.

At a community centre there a young lad, maybe nine-years-old, goes into the toilets with his harassed-looking father, obviously in urgent need of the facilities. As he gets into a cubicle, however, he stops short. "What about all this stuff, Dad?" he asks, pointing at the discarded syringe and sterile swab packaging that is littering the floor.

His father tells him to ignore it, but the child persists. "But Dad, there's blood on the toilet." He is hustled out again, but told to wash his hands first. There are also traces of blood on the hand basin.

Outside the gates of Craigton Primary School, where an 11-year-old was found to have pounds 500 worth of heroin stuffed into the toes of his gym plimsolls, parents were regretting that they were having to warn their children about the dangers of drugs at an even younger age.

In a third case, also revealed yesterday, a young boy was discovered with a large quantity of suspected cannabis at a school for four to eight- year-olds in Farnham, Surrey. Police found more drugs when they swooped on his home last week. A 27-year-old woman and 26-year-old man were arrested and released on bail.

Following the Govan incident, Helen Liddell, the Scottish education minister, pledged to set up a School Drug Safety Team to deal with such problems. Yesterday it was announced that the first such unit had been dispatched to Borestone school.

Officials also praised the seven-year-old, saying that it showed that the anti-drugs message was finally getting through.