Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Head teacher opts for drugs testing

Head teacher Peter Walker is introducing random drugs testing at his school in January next year. He believes this is the best way forward in the fight against drug abuse.

Until recently, Mr Walker was against random drugs testing in schools, believing the political climate was not supportive.

But when, in February, the prime minister, Tony Blair, said head teachers would be given powers to introduce such measures, Mr Walker decided to take him up on the offer.

"Prevention is not often appreciated, but it's by far the most effective way if you can get it to work," says Mr Walker, head of The Abbey School in Faversham, Kent.

"And I think random drugs testing is probably the best form of prevention that's open to me at this particular time.

"To say there's a big drugs problem in schools is fallacious, but we do have our part to play and that's what I want to do. I really wish there wasn't a need for this."

Naturally, the notion of random drugs testing raises questions about privacy and civil liberties, but Mr Walker says he is primarily seeking "quality of life" for his pupils.

"I respect people's right to question it all, but I ask them to bear in mind the rights of the majority and their right to learn unhindered.

"And that means in an environment where they are not being affected by people who are behaving badly or suffering mood swings because of the effects of drugs."