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Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK

Drug education project under fire

The trip to Amsterdam is a "reward" for completing courses

Schoolchildren will visit Amsterdam's cannabis cafes this summer as part of a controversial police project designed to educate them about drugs.

[ image: Bob Haynes:
Bob Haynes: "Education works"
When they return from the Dutch city, the teenagers from Berkshire will give presentations to younger pupils.

The project came under fire in April but had been going for two years, after being launched by a Thames Valley Police schools liaison officer, Bob Haynes.

He said the visit to Amsterdam was a "reward" for youngsters who had completed a weekend residential and evening course about the effects of drug taking.

'Position of knowledge'

"Through their involvement in the project the children learn all about the different ways of taking drugs," Mr Haynes said.

"This means they are in a position of knowledge if they are asked about a particular form of solvent sniffing, for example. If necessary, they can advise on a safer way, thus minimising potential harm.

Drugs in Schools
"Eventually, the more people know about drugs, the more they will understand they are not an answer to their problems."

But a spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, Margaret Morrisey, said the danger was that in giving children too much information about drugs, they were encouraged to experiment.

"Youngsters don't need to know all the effects a drug has on the body," she said. "They just need to be taught they are dangerous and how to say no."

About 15 schools in Berkshire are involved in the project, for which they are charged £1,600 each.

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