The Right Responses: Managing and Making Policy for Drug Related Incidents in Schools

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



Joyce, R. and King, A. (2000), "The Right Responses: Managing and Making Policy for Drug Related Incidents in Schools", Health Education, Vol. 100 No. 3, pp. 131-132.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Exclusion for drug‐related incidents is a growing problem in our schools, and one which the government is concerned to reduce, given the association between school exclusion and social exclusion. Pupils excluded from school, outside of its boundaries and support, are much more likely to become involved in crime and to be unemployed, while their drug problems almost invariably spiral out of control. Schools are often very unsure of how to handle drugs, while being under a good deal of pressure from governors and parents to take “firm” action. Some schools, that are otherwise level headed about a range of behavioural problems, such as truancy, bullying and violence and have developed positive approaches to dealing with such inevitable problems in a flexible and helpful way, panic where drugs are involved, and overreact in ways that can pose a greater threat to the pupil than the drug itself. This strategy document, produced by the independent Standing Conference on Drug Abuse, provides a welcome set of guidelines for schools on how to respond to drugs in constructive and rational ways. It is based on a consultation with experts on drugs and schools, a review of work in this country, and on a piece of commissioned research on schools’ policies and practice in relation to drugs, carried out by Manchester Metropolitan University. The authors have digested what was clearly a wealth of information at their disposal, and offer it back to busy practitioners in a concise and very readable form. The report is packed with information, but well laid out and easy to read and dip into. It covers a wide range of essential issues, including:

  • prevention and intervention with young people at risk;

  • guidance on managing drug‐related incidents;

  • developing a range of responses after the event, including counselling, pupil assistance programmes and behaviour contracts;

  • the construction of drugs policies in schools; and

  • the management of fixed term or, hopefully rare, permanent exclusions in a fair and open manner.

It reminds schools that there many agencies out there willing and able to support them, and advises schools to consult widely, including with the local police who are likely to be only to willing to help them avoid the kind of exclusions that put kids on the streets for society to deal with. Throughout, the report stays close to the school’s perspective, and the suggestions made are realistic and appropriate in the current school climate. All schools should have several copies of this invaluable document, which should be passed round, read, and most of all, acted on.

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