Top Catholic school hit by drugs scandal

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The Independent Online
A top Catholic college has disciplined 20 pupils after exposing a drugs ring inside the school. Two pupils at the pounds 4,000-a-year St Bede's school in Manchester have been expelled and 18 others - some as young as 14 - suspended after they were caught dealing with cannabis, the headmaster said.

The two ringleaders, upper fifth-formers taking their GCSEs, were permanently excluded by head, John Byrne, last week after a second former told teachers older boys had offered him the illegal drug.

Now the school's 1,020 pupils will receive counselling from drug agency Lifeline in an attempt to "break the drug culture" infecting young lives in the area, said Mr Byrne. In a letter to all parents he said pupils had been caught buying or smoking cannabis after others brought it into school. He urged parents to "keep their wits about them" and police their children's behaviour and social habits in an effort to stamp out the culture.

"You are only too aware that many of the pubs and clubs are the refuges of the drugs pushers. But equally worrying is the prevalence of drugs at parties where peer pressure and fear of ostracism may induce the naive teenager to experiment. The governors and staff are at one in deploring the drugs culture which bedevils Greater Manchester. We treat with contempt the notion of the so-called soft drug."

Two members of staff were immediately removed from teaching duties to deal with the problem as soon as it came to light, Mr Byrne said.

"Then, after a series of meetings with senior staff, three members of the governing body and some of the parents involved, I took the following decisions. Two upper-fifth pupils have been excluded and will not be returning to the college.

"Two upper-fifth and two lower-fifth pupils have been suspended from college for between three and four weeks and 14 pupils from the upper and lower-fifth have been sent home until the end of the month."

All pupils would be lectured on the consequences of drug- taking when they return from their half-term break on Monday and the 18 suspended pupils would be expected to attend a drug education programme after their return to school.

Five years ago, Mr Byrne expelled two 16-year-olds and suspended several fourth and fifth-formers after they were caught smoking cannabis.