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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Shock tactics for school drug lessons
Rachel Whitear
Shock tactics: Rachel Whitear died of a heroin overdose
Schools are to be encouraged to make greater use of shock tactics in anti-drugs lessons.

And new government guidance will give head teachers firm backing to exclude any pupil caught dealing drugs on school premises - even if it is a first offence.

New drugs measures
Shock tactics in schools
Expulsion for school dealers
Ofsted to inspect drugs lessons
Training for all teachers
Support for teachers
Getting parents involved
Alcohol education
Exclusion appeals panels will be urged not to overturn a head teachers' decision to expel such pupils.

As part of the tough new approach, a video about the death of heroin addict Rachel Whitear is to be made available to all schools in England.

The 21-year-old student died of an overdose at a flat in Exmouth in May 2000.

Her parents, Mick and Pauline Holcroft, hit the headlines in March when they decided to release graphic pictures of Rachel's death to warn teenagers of the dangers of the drug.

Pragmatic approach

But drugs education experts said using such shock tactics was unlikely to make a difference.

Rachel Whitear
Rachel died with a syringe in her hand
Vivienne Evans, head of education and prevention at the group Drugscope, expressed reservations about a "shock" approach to drugs education.

"The government should continue what has until now been its pragmatic and constructive approach to drugs education, basing its information on fact, not on shock tactics and a 'just say no' approach."

Catherine Goldin from the charity Turning Point said shock tactics had limited value.

"It's been shown that young people who are deterred by such pictures are actually young people who probably wouldn't use drugs anyway," said Ms Goldin.

Catherine Goldin from Turning Point
Catherine Goldin: Sceptical about hard-hitting tactics
However, speaking on the BBC's Breakfast programme, Mr and Mrs Holcroft said they believed the video images may help.

Mr Holcroft said: "Actually the video isn't a shocking video, it's a quite sensitive video.

"The images shown alone are shocking but with an educational package around them - it's realism.

"We are coming from a standpoint of realism, not just one of shock tactics.

"Children do come across drug dealers and drug users - they probably know more about drugs than we do and from an early age.

"So let's educate them and equip them with the knowledge so they can make informed decisions."

Teachers' views

Mr and Mrs Holcroft met the minister responsible for young people and learning, Ivan Lewis at the Department for Education on Tuesday, ahead of a summit on how schools can tackle drugs and alcohol misuse.

Pauline and Mick Holcroft
Mr and Mrs Holcroft were at the Department for Education on Tuesday
The afternoon seminar will seek the views of head teachers and drug agencies.

Government policy says all secondary schools and 80% of primary schools must have a drugs education policy in place by 2003.

The Department for Education also wants schools to put more emphasis on the moral issues surrounding drug taking.

Mr Lewis said it had to send a "clear and strong" message to young people about the dangers of drugs.

"We reject the message of the 80s, which was 'just say no', but we also reject any notion of a value-free approach to drugs education," he said.

"What we have to face up to is that far too many young people are emerging from the education system and drug and alcohol education simply hasn't worked."

Lessons inspections

The department is believed to be in contact with the Teacher Training Agency to ensure prospective teachers are given the necessary preparation to deliver the anti-drugs message effectively.

And it wants to see the school standards watchdog, Ofsted, inspecting drugs education lessons.

General secretary of the Secondary Heads Association John Dunford welcomed the tougher stance over drugs dealers in schools.

Ivan Lewis
Ivan Lewis: At the forefront of a summit on drugs
There had been too many cases where a head teacher's decision to expel drugs sellers had been undermined by appeals panels, Mr Dunford said.

"Head teachers need to have the sanctions available to make schools drugs-free zones," he said.

"The only sensible policy towards drugs selling is zero-tolerance.

"Parents have a right to expect that their child will not be exposed to drugs or drugs sellers during school hours," he said.

But the Shadow Education Secretary, Damian Green, said the government had clearly not thought the matter through and accused ministers of operating a "media-driven stunt".

The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"Learning lessons about drugs"
Drugscope's Vivienne Evans
"We need to promote clear alcohol education in schools"
Pauline & Michael Holcroft, Rachel Whitear's parents
"If it could happen to Rachel it could happen to anyone"

Drugs at school
Should shock tactics be used in drugs lessons?
See also:

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