College could buy drug-testing kits

AN Essex college is considering purchasing drugs testing kits to allow parents to check their children at home as part of a hard-line policy on the problem.

AN Essex college is considering purchasing drugs testing kits to allow parents to check their children at home as part of a hard-line policy on the problem.

Tendring Technology College has warned its pupils that no matter how impressive their academic record, they will be excluded if they bring illegal substances onto the premises.

Caroline Haynes, principal at the college which has campuses in Frinton and Thorpe Le Soken, said if parents wanted a more lenient approach they are free to take their children elsewhere.

She said she believed there was a “significant minority” of students taking drugs, especially at social events.

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The introduction of home testing kits follows an announcement from Brightlingsea's Colne Community College earlier this year that its pupils would be randomly tested for drugs.

However, those who take drugs at the Colne Community College have been told they will be not automatically be expelled but given support through counselling.

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But Ms Haynes said she felt it was important to send out a clear message that drugs would not be tolerated.

She said: “The policy is no matter whether you are a grade-A student we will seek to permanently exclude you if you bring illegal substances in - there are no second chances, whatsoever.

“It is our intention that the college will be a drug free place, however we acknowledge there is a problem with drugs and if we suspect, or parents suspect, their young people are indulging in taking illegal drugs, we can make the drug testing kits available to them.

“If a child is having difficulties we will be supportive and do all we can to help, put them in touch with agencies, but they will be excluded if the illegal substances are brought in.

“We have a duty of care to all the students and if somebody is prepared to bring in illegal substances, putting at risk those who don't want to indulge.

“My responsibility is to the majority of students, parents can choose where they send their children and we are very open about the policy on drugs.”

Ms Haynes said she felt it was important that youngsters did not start to think drug taking, even cannabis, was ok.

She added: “We must never stop reminding young people about the impact of trying drugs, because if we don't remind them, they will believe the myth that there are no problems with it.”

Yesterday Stephen Castle, cabinet member for education at Essex County Council, said: “It is a matter for the governing bodies of each individual school to decide whether or not they wish to implement random drug testing.

“The council can offer advice to any school considering such a course of action.

“However, we remain circumspect in our opinions on such testing. We would be concerned, for example, if random testing was to pick up traces of drugs taken by a pupil at the weekend, as it is clearly not the duty of a school to police its students' weekend activities.

“Moreover, we want Essex schools to be seen as places where pupils are free to maximise their potential in an atmosphere of trust. In some cases, random drug testing is not conducive to such an atmosphere.

“However, we will respond to any request from an individual school for advice in this matter, and consider any proposal in light of the school's own particular circumstances.”

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