HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Teachers Rebuff Random Tests For Drugs In Schools
Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2004
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Times Newspapers Ltd
Author: David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Teschers delivered an immediate rebuff to plans unveiled by Tony Blair
yesterday for random drug-testing in schools.

The Prime Minister said that head teachers would be given new powers
next month to demand urine tests of pupils or bring sniffer dogs into

Mr Blair is alarmed at the growth of drug-taking among teenagers with
one in three 15-year-olds telling a survey that they had tried an
illicit substance at least once.

But most classroom unions said that the powers were not welcome
because they would turn teachers into a branch of the police.

The Conservatives added to the criticism, accusing the Government of
sending mixed signals on drugs after lowering the classification of

Mr Blair said in an interview with the News of the World: "If heads believe
they have a problem in their school then they should be
able to do random drug testing.

"Guidance will be given to head teachers next month which is going to
give them specifically the power to do random drug testing within
their schools."

The Department for Education and Skills disclosed earlier this year
that it was looking at new guidelines, which it had planned to publish
this month.

A spokesman said that tests would not be carried out by teachers and
that heads would decide what sanctions to take against pupils caught
with drugs or those who refused a test. Parents permission would be
required for tests on pupils under 16.

But John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads
Association, said: "I am concerned at the implication that the drugs
problem is rooted in schools and that schools should solve it.

"Yet another burden is being placed on schools, which have a
contribution to make to solving the drugs problem but policies must
look much more widely.

"I do not think that head teachers will want to carry out random drugs
testing in schools. It is something that would change the atmosphere
in schools, would change the relationship between the school and the

Jean Gemmell, general secretary of the Professional Association of
Teachers, said: "My first reaction was to be fairly horrified, mostly
because I cannot quite see how on earth it is going to work.

"As a former head and someone who represents teachers, it is adding to
their burden of social responsibility to the point that it becomes

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT, added:
"This would be a very big step for any head teacher to take. It is
effectively giving them police powers and I think a head teacher would
want to think very, very carefully before exercising them."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head
Teachers, agreed with Mr Blair's plans but cautioned that it would
only work with the support of head teachers.

Research conducted by Euromed, a company which specialises in drug
testing, yesterday suggested that most parents would be happy for a
tighter focus on drugs. The study said two in three parents asked
supported random drug testing in schools and 69 per cent of them would
allow their own child to be tested.
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