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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Head to head: Anti-drugs shock tactics
Head to Head
Schools are to be encouraged to use tough messages when teaching children about drugs.

New government guidance will give head teachers firm backing to exclude any pupil caught dealing drugs on school premises.

A video showing the death of Rachel Whitear from heroin will also be shown.

But are the tactics the right way forward?

BBC News Online talks to two people with opposing views.



DrugScope's head of education and prevention Vivienne Evans:

The evidence suggests that, on their own, shock tactics do not work.

Classroom teaching encompassing a whole range of approaches is better.

It might include some films or videos with shocking things in them, but not that in isolation.

As for the pictures of Rachel Whitear - maybe it does work for one or two people.


Excluding pupils should not be the first response

Vivienne Evans

But we cannot use that as a rationale for just having a shock, horror approach.

The answer is to give clear and accurate information to young people.

And we need to differentiate the messages.

The message about the dangers and risks associated with heroin are very different to those associated with alcohol or tobacco.

We have to start to be very clear or young people are not going to believe any message we give them whether it shocks them or not.

As for excluding people for drug use, it should not be the first response.

Exclusion by its very nature removes support mechanisms for young people and thus has the potential to deepen their drugs problems.


John Berry, head of personal and social education at Pates Grammar school in Cheltenham:

We do not sensationalise drugs education.

We try to teach it and tell it as it really is.

And that can be shocking.

We are trying to convince children there are dangers, repercussions and consequences and the risks outweigh any advantages.


I am trying to take the glamour and coolness out of drug-taking and say: "Look, people die"

John Berry

It is about giving children information, facts, the law, attitudes, opinions, topical matters about drugs.

This is a relatively new approach so children can make decisions for themselves when confronted with illegal substances.

I would like to see a tougher approach by educational leaders, by police, by government.

I am a bit worried about this "softly-softly" approach.

I worry about getting onto the slippery slope.

I wonder if we are heading that way with the possible reclassification of cannabis.

One of my pet themes is to say if you take drugs, how is it going to affect your life and your family.

It is one of the themes that runs through my lessons.

It is my job to mention there are risks, as in the cases of Leah Betts and Rachel Whitear.


I do not think you should pull any punches

John Berry

I try to take the glamour and coolness out of drug-taking and say: "Look, people die".

So it is quite hard-hitting.

I do not think you should pull any punches.

In the 10 years I have been here we have had two incidents where we have had drugs in school, which is a good record.

In education, you are trying to mould children, you are trying to give them information, you are trying to educate them.

These are the parents of tomorrow, if they are going to have lax attitudes towards drugs what are they going to be like as parents when their children take drugs?


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See also:

21 May 02 | UK Education
01 Mar 02 | UK Education
01 Mar 02 | UK Education
04 Mar 02 | Talking Point
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