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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
School welcomes Tory drug stance
Peter Walker
Mr Walker says drug testing in schools is not a political issue
A head teacher who is introducing random drug testing has welcomed the Tory party's pledge to fight against drugs in schools.

Peter Walker, head of The Abbey School, Kent, said: "It's a non-political issue, but I am grateful for the high profile the Tories are giving it."

Shadow home secretary David Davis told the party conference that fighting drug crime will be a top priority.

He pledged to speed up the introduction of random drug tests in schools.

Mr Walker plans to begin a six-month trial in January at the school in Faversham.

It's not just a political issue as it affects all of our lives in every way
Peter Walker
Head teacher, Abbey School, Kent
"The high profile is more than welcome," he told BBC News Online on Wednesday.

"We've had support, in February, from Tony Blair, and anything a political party can do is welcome.

"But it's not just a political issue as it affects all of our lives in every way," he added.

Mr Davis said in his speech that a survey suggests up to 100,000 children aged from 13 to 15 in the UK have used cocaine.

"That is why we will support, encourage and accelerate the implementation of random drug-testing of pupils," he went on.

'Not cool'

"Children need to know that it is not cool to use drugs - it is stupid, it is dangerous, it is illegal. And parents should know the law will be enforced."

Mr Walker said the Tory policy was "wonderful news" and added that support was strong for his scheme.

"The pupils are aware, the parents are aware, the general public are aware - but we haven't even started [the trial] yet."

Mr Davis stressed: "I make no apology for taking a hard line on drugs. They destroy lives, destroy society and render all our efforts to reduce crime worthless.

"Some people say we have lost the war on drugs, I say we have not begun to fight it. Fighting it will be my top priority."

Funding

Mr Walker said he was still seeking funding for the scheme at The Abbey School, and hoped both the Labour party and the Conservatives would do more to fund such schemes.

"Funding is a big issue. The more sponsorship you get, the cheaper it becomes."

He declined to state how much the scheme, including equipment, analysis, and staffing will cost.

If the trial has an impact on the school, Mr Walker said he would consider extending it.

The scheme is voluntary, with parental consent necessary.

If a pupil does give a positive test, Mr Walker does not plan to involve the police or expel the child, but offer them help through counselling.

However, police would be involved if a drug dealer was identified.

West Kent police said drug education in schools was ongoing, including occasional use of sniffer dogs and the Ion Track Tester, a device using a swab to detect drugs on anything from school buses, to lockers to pupils.

However, a police spokeswoman said it was about "education, not the random testing of children".




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