Govt considers drug testing in schools

The government is considering introducing drug tests for schoolchildren
The government is considering introducing drug tests for schoolchildren

School pupils could be tested for drugs as part of a new government study to determine whether testing can affect youngsters' behaviour, attendance and academic achievements.

It is claimed that ministers will ask schools across England to take part in a six-month long drug testing trial from January.

The planned trial follows recent research that suggested about a quarter of all children have tried drugs by the time they reach the age of 15.

Organisers of the pilot scheme claim that the random drugs tests are relatively easy to conduct and can boost the performance of pupils, who can refuse to be tested.

The voluntary tests reportedly involve pupils providing a sample of saliva which is then tested for traces of drugs such as cannabis, amphetamines and cocaine, with the results available after about 20 minutes.

Speaking to the BBC, former head teacher and government consultant on the planned pilot project, Peter Walker said: "It doesn't cause any harm whatsoever, a child still has a right to say no, indeed so does a parent, it doesn't disrupt the running of the school, it's relatively cheap to do and brings great benefits like improved performances."

However, the BBC claims that the government's own drugs information panel has expressed concern about the use of drug testing in schools, citing Vivienne Edwards from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs as warning that such tests can undermine pupil-teacher relationships and should not be used a result of "complex" technical and ethical issues surrounding the issue.

Such a move is also likely to be criticised by drugs charities including DrugScope, which warned in May that random drug testing was not proven to reduce drug use, following reports that Kent county council were considering introducing such tests in secondary schools.

Commenting at the time, DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes said: "DrugScope is concerned at the gathering momentum and profile being given to random drug testing in schools when there is still insufficient evidence to support its introduction.

"Random drug testing has the potential to undermine relationships between pupils and teachers, could add to problems of truancy and exclusion and does not tackle the underlying factors which can lead to problem drug use, such as underachievement, unstable parenting and poverty," he added.


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