Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by the National Union of Teachers (NUT)


  1.  The National Union of Teachers, the largest teacher union representing teachers in England and Wales, welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry on drugs.

  2.  The NUT views as positive the Government's commitment to provide additional funding for "Drug Prevention" and "Schools Drug Advisers" as part of the Standards Fund allocation for 2000-2002. The NUT looks forward to long-term financial support for drug education in schools including resources for staffing and specific training for teachers.

  3.  The NUT continues to value drug education as the means of equipping young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to make informed, responsible and health choices for themselves.

  4.  Evidence has shown that the most effective way to protect young people against drug misuse is to educate them. Teachers are, therefore, central to the delivery of drug education to young people.


  5.  The NUT commissioned a survey of 2,575 teachers in primary schools, secondary schools and pupil referral units in the summer term (2001) on teachers' recent experiences of pupil behaviour and drug-related incidents in schools. The survey, covering teachers in 13 education authorities in England and Wales, was carried out by Dr Sean Neill of Warwick University, Institute of Education.

  6.  The authorities included in the survey were chosen to give a representative geographical and social spread and covered inner city, suburban and urban areas.

  7.  The results of the survey revealed that one in five schools encountered drug possession at least once a year. Just over twelve per cent of respondents reported experiencing possession of drugs by pupils once a year; 4.6 per cent experienced it termly; 2.0 per cent monthly and 1 per cent weekly. Four in five respondents (80.2 per cent) did not report experiencing possession of drugs in schools.

  8.  In comparison, drug trafficking was reported in fewer than one in seven schools. Eighty-seven per cent of respondents did not report that they experienced drug trafficking in school; 8.3 per cent of respondents reported having witnessed drug trafficking in school annually; 3.2 per cent termly; 0.8 per cent monthly; and 0.6 per cent weekly.

  9.  An analysis of the written comments has indicated that, to some extent, schools can be seen as a safe haven from drugs.

  10.  Respondents, particularly those in primary schools, were, however, concerned about the future of pupils who were currently not involved in drugs but who were vulnerable to drug trafficking in the immediate vicinity of the school or by parents.

  11.  In schools where drug possession was experienced more frequently, the NUT welcomed the fact that respondents were more likely to have had behaviour management training. However, some respondents reported that LEA support was ineffective. Similarly, in schools where both possession and trafficking were reported, teachers expressed concern that there was little support from management, that they did not know where to report drug-related incidents and that support for problem pupils was poor.

  12.  In one primary school in Leicester, a teacher who reported no experience of drug possession or trafficking in school, wrote:

    "I teach in what could be called a `sink' estate. We have high exclusions. However, I have to say we accept and attempt to teach children with severe emotional and/or social problems . . . For too many a very bleak life is mapped out at 10, of drugs and crime."

  13.  A secondary teacher in Norfolk who reported an annual occurrence of drug possession and trafficking stated that there had been an "increase in the use of `soft' drugs" in the school.


  14.  It is evident from the NUT study that drug misuse is an issue for schools in rural as well as inner city areas and that resource for drug prevention strategies, specific training for teachers, and educating young people, must be a priority.

  15.  Remarks by respondents to the NUT survey that teachers did not receive adequate support from management or from headteachers in delivering drug education and developing drug prevention strategies in schools is of enormous concern to the NUT.

  16.  The NUT has emphasised to the Government the importance of teachers feeling supported and confident and equipped with the information and resources to carry out effectively their educational role in the delivery of the National Drugs Strategy. It appears from the results of the NUT research that schools still require advice and support on how drug education and prevention strategies and policies can be successfully and effectively integrated into the work of schools.

  17.  Local Drug Action Teams, LEA Advisers, and external agencies should continue to support schools in developing comprehensive drug policies, drug education programmes and in responding effectively to drug related incidents. The NUT has favoured a greater emphasis on the role of a properly trained coordinator or specified senior member of staff to facilitate the planning and implementation of drug education in schools. It is hoped that the funding of Schools Drugs Advisers will go some way towards reducing this gap in support to schools and in the education of young people.

  18.  The NUT would like to see a greater emphasis on the referral role of the school when responding to drug-related incidents, and greater cooperation and coordination of local drug prevention strategies to ensure that schools remain a safe haven from drugs and to reduce the risk that activities outside of the control of the school do not undermine the valuable work undertaken by teachers. Further work with school governors is necessary to illustrate how schools can, in partnership with other agencies, deliver the National Drugs Strategy and make a difference.

  19.  The NUT looks forward to long-term financial support for the delivery of the National Drugs Strategy and for the continued funding of drug education programmes and drug policies for schools which includes resources, staffing, specific training and support for teachers and a fully comprehensive and coordinated approach to drug prevention locally.

September 2001

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Prepared 20 December 2001