There is a ‘rising tide’ of drug abuse in schools as tranquillisers and ‘new psychoactive substances’ become more readily available, the head of a leading private school has warned.
Andrew Halls, head of King’s College School in Wimbledon, South-West London, says substances such as Xanax, a highly addictive tranquilliser, have become cheaper than tobacco and easier to get hold of than alcohol.
In a strongly worded letter to parents he revealed a number of his pupils have asked teachers to help break a ‘dangerous habit’.
Mr Halls said that in more than one case they have had to deal with children ‘so affected by the impact of drugs on their lives that remaining had become impossible for them’.
King’s pupils are given drugs tests if suspected of taking substances and offered counselling if they test positive. If they fail subsequent tests, they could be expelled.
Andrew Halls, head of King’s College School in Wimbledon, South-West London, says substances such as Xanax, a highly addictive tranquilliser, have become cheaper than tobacco and easier to get hold of than alcohol
It is not the first time Mr Halls has raised concerns about drug-taking in schools.
At a meeting of head teachers earlier this month, he said that ‘every single head around the table felt that drug abuse by young people was a central concern for schools and parents’.
He was joined by Helen Pike, master of Magdalen College School, Oxford, who promised to send parents a letter warning of the risks of Modafinil, a ‘smart drug’ taken to improve alertness during exams.
Figures show a sharp rise in numbers of children admitting to taking drugs, with 37 per cent of 15-year-olds saying they had over the previous 12 months in 2016 – compared with 24 per cent in 2015.
Xanax, used to treat anxiety disorders, has become a particular concern among youth workers after it was reported this month that children were able to buy the pills illegally via dealers on Facebook and Instagram for as little as 89p.
Drugs charity Addaction warned children as young as 13 were buying them online. Neil Coles of the charity said: ‘There’s a lot of use in grammar schools, a lot in those high-pressure environments.’
King’s College School (pictured) pupils are given drugs tests if suspected of taking substances and offered counselling if they test positive. If they fail subsequent tests, they could be expelled
Schools have a statutory duty to protect pupils’ well-being and help prevent drug abuse.
According to the Government’s Drug Strategy 2010, this could include consulting local health partners, getting parents involved and reporting incidents to the police.
In guidance developed by the Department for Education and the Association of Chief Police Officers, concerns were also raised about the rise of so-called ‘new psychoactive substances’ which are not necessarily illegal but designed to mimic the effects of banned drugs.
It is recommended schools record incidents involving these substances in the same way as illegal ones.
King’s College School, where fees can reach £20,000 a year, is part of the Eton Group of 12 independent schools which includes Eton College.