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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Zero tolerance for school drug dealers
drug user
Pupils who sell drugs will face automatic exclusion
Drug dealers who target children at the school gate could face longer jail sentences under a new law being considered by the government.

Ministers are discussing a new offence of aggravated drug dealing to tackle those who see children as lucrative customers, said Ivan Lewis, the minister for young people and learning.

Rachel Whitear
Hard-hitting images of Rachel will be shown to pupils
New guidance to schools will also urge head teachers to expel pupils who sell drugs to other children - with no chance of a let-off even for a first-time offence.

The Department for Education says the proposals are part of an "all-out offensive" against drugs in schools, which also involves showing children a graphic film about the death of a heroin addict.

A video about the death of heroin addict Rachel Whitear will be made available to all secondary schools in England.

'Shock approach'

The video portrays the 21-year-old student's decline under the influence of drugs and shows shocking pictures of how she died in rented accommodation with a syringe in her hand.

But drugs charities having criticised the use of such material, saying shock tactics were unlikely to make a difference.

New anti-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
However, speaking on the BBC's Breakfast programme, Rachel's parents Mick and Pauline 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... so let's educate them and equip them with the knowledge so they can make informed decisions."

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

'Summit'

The afternoon seminar is seeking the views of head teachers, drug agencies, young people and educationalists.

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

Ivan Lewis
Ivan Lewis: At the forefront of a summit on drugs
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.

The department wants 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.

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".

Mixed messages

Critics said the tough new stance on drugs in and around schools appeared to contradict the government's increasingly relaxed approach to drugs like cannabis.

Head teacher Alice Hudson
Head teacher Alice Hudson: Concerned about mixed messages on drugs
Head teacher of Twyford High School in west London, Alice Hudson said pupils were getting mixed messages.

"What is confusing for our students is that there is a fad going in one direction and then in another," said Ms Hudson.

"Many of our students have said the police don't care about soft drugs anymore - and that's not helpful."

Critics sceptical

Vivienne Evans, head of education and prevention at the group Drugscope, expressed reservations about a "shock" approach to drugs education.

Catherine Goldin from Turning Point
Catherine Goldin: Sceptical about hard-hitting tactics
"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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Baker
"The government wants more use of shock tactics in drugs education"
Vivienne Evans of Drugscope
"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"

Talking PointFORUM
Drug Education
Do shock tactics work? Ask an expert 1530 BST
See also:

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