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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 17:46 GMT
Random school drug tests scrapped
General view of Abbey School
Testing was said to help Abbey School get its best GCSE results
A planned trial of random drug testing in schools across Kent has been scrapped because not one of the county's schools signed up.

The Abbey School, Faversham, pioneered random testing using mouth swabs in a pilot scheme in 2005 believed to be the first in a UK state school.

The government supported a Kent County Council (KCC) plan to roll out the scheme across its other schools.

But KCC said the cost of the testing was a "barrier to recruitment".

In the trial at the Abbey School, 20 pupils each week were selected by computer to have mouth swabs taken.

One positive

The swabs were sent to a laboratory to be tested for cannabis, speed, ecstasy, heroin and cocaine use.

After conducting 270 tests, the school said only one was positive.

No child was tested without parents' consent, and 85% agreed to take part.

Former head teacher of the school, Peter Walker, hailed the scheme a success, saying it contributed to an all-time high in GCSE pass rates.

The then Department for Education and Skills said it would pay from research based on a Kent-wide pilot to establish whether there was a direct link between random testing and behaviour, attendance and academic achievement.

Peter Walker
Peter Walker introduced random testing at the Abbey School

But KCC said it did not pay for the cost of the drug tests themselves.

"This proved a barrier to recruiting schools to participate, as schools would have had to move funding from other areas of their budget," said a spokesman.

He said that in order for the pilot to go ahead there needed to be at least 35 schools recruited to make a national evaluation valid and cost effective.

"There was a failure to recruit the requisite number of schools, so the pilot did not go ahead and no evaluation took place, either nationally or locally."

Mr Walker, who has now retired, said he was disappointed the scheme did not go ahead.

"We have still got this misplaced philosophy that if you do have a drug testing project in your school you are saying effectively that your school has got a drug problem," he said.

Drugs tests in schools 'extreme'
31 May 06 |  Education

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