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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Schools expel hundreds over drugs
By Mike Chilvers
BBC News, North Yorkshire

Cannabis joint generic
Almost a third of 14 to 16-year-old admitted smoking cannabis
More than one pupil is excluded from lessons in North Yorkshire every school day because of drug or alcohol use, figures obtained by the BBC reveal.

Data provided by the county council under the Freedom of Information Act show that 233 pupils were excluded in 2004/5 - six of them permanently.

In 2003/4, there were 223 exclusions - 10 of them permanent.

Apart from three cases at primary schools, the figures relate to the 57 secondary schools in North Yorkshire.

That means that, on average, four pupils are excluded from each school in the county every year for some form of drug or alcohol-related incident.

Separate figures for the City of York, which has its own local education authority, show that 18 pupils were excluded in 2003/4 and eight in the previous year, three of them from primary schools.

Schools do not readily discard young people
North Yorkshire drugs education consultant David Uffindall

North Yorkshire County Council said schools could exclude pupils for any of the following reasons: possession of illegal drugs, drug dealing, inappropriate use of prescribed drugs, smoking, alcohol abuse or other substance abuse.

Figures for the current school year would not be available until later in the autumn term, it added.

In a survey of pupils conducted by the council in 2004, 44% of boys and 46% of girls in years 10-11 (14 to 16-year-olds) said they had been offered cannabis, and 28% of boys and girls said they had used the drug.

Asked if they had had an alcoholic drink in the last seven days, 60% of year 11 pupils and 58% of year 10 pupils answered yes - both figures higher than the national average.

David Uffindall, a drugs education consultant for the North Yorkshire local education authority, said he was not shocked by the figures for exclusions, even in a largely rural county.

Teenage drinker
Under-age drinking in the county is above the national average

"It does not surprise me because drugs are an issue for all communities and schools are part of those communities and reflect their problems," he said.

"The figures also show how active staff are and how good they are at spotting these difficulties and resolving them in some way or other.

"Any child excluded permanently or temporarily will have had a lot of support and schools do not readily discard young people.

"They try their very best to keep them in school and to rehabilitate them, but sometimes a change is best not just for the school but for the individual.

"They may need a fresh start in a new environment to learn from their mistakes.

"I think the support network can always be improved and, of course, needs vary from pupil to pupil.

"It depends in part on how good these youngsters are at responding to the support they're offered.

"Sometimes drug use is such that it takes some time for them to do that. They may not necessarily want to change their behaviour straight away or as quickly as the school might want them to."

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