Drug charity warning to schools

DRUG education in schools needs to be “ramped up” because “every school” in the county has a problem, it was claimed last night.

A DRUGS charity has warned that “every school” in Suffolk has a problem with drugs – and that not enough is being done to deal with the issue.

Chip Somers, founder of Bury St Edmunds-based addiction charity Focus12, also claimed that very few headteachers were willing to admit their schools had a problem with drug-taking.

Mr Somers said drug education needed to be improved in schools – and his calls for action have been largely supported by those at the coalface of both education and drugs awareness in the county.

Speaking to the East Anglian Daily Times, Mr Somers said: “Every school in Suffolk has a drugs problem. We really need to ramp up education.

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“We’re getting people presenting themselves for treatment aged 18 or 19. This was absolutely unheard of a few years ago. They are at the end of their tether in their late teens.

“At the moment, drugs education largely seems to be a case of saying ‘drugs are bad, don’t do them’.”

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He also claimed very few headteachers were willing to admit their schools had a drugs issue – something he claimed was counterproductive towards having a constructive dialogue with pupils about drugs.

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School, in Bury St Edmunds, said: “Since every school is a microcosm of society, yes by definition we will have a drugs problem and so will every other.”

He said he was aware of some schools which were concerned about allowing drug education workers into their schools in case it damaged the establishment’s reputation.

This, he warned, was akin to sticking one’s “head in the sand” and risked distancing teaching staff from the very pupils they had an opportunity to support.

Ren Masetti, training co-ordinator at the Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said 15 years ago many schools were “scared” of the drugs subject.

“Most schools now are welcoming and realise it is an issue everybody has to deal with,” he said.

He said he would like to see each and every school with a staff member trained up sufficiently to speak with children confidently about drugs.

He said the risk with getting people in from outside to speak about drugs – whether an ex-user or somebody else whose life had been ruined by drugs – was that it could simply scare them.

Drug education, he said, should start at primary school with warnings about medicines and dangerous materials within the house and expand, as children get older, into illicit drugs as an area of potential danger about which young people were capable of making informed choices.

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