HC Deb 25 April 1995 vol 258 cc652-3
10. Mr. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what action to discourage drug abuse is under way in primary and secondary schools. [19177]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr. Eric Forth)

My right hon. Friend has committed the Department and the education service to playing a full part in the Government's strategy for drug prevention. The national curriculum requires all primary and secondary schools to teach about the harmful effects of drugs. Following recent consultation, we shall issue next month our circular on drug prevention and schools, with curriculum guidance on teaching about drugs, and a digest of drug education teaching materials. In addition, a range of innovative projects on drug prevention, supported by the Government, started this month.

Mr. Butler

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to refute the mendacious and malicious misinformation put about by Nigel de Gruchy, which suggests, totally falsely, that the Government recommend that we go soft on the use of drugs in schools? Does my hon. Friend share my regret that, once again, one of the leading teacher unions has shown itself incapable of properly representing the interests, not of its extreme left wing, but of the pupils whom it is supposed to serve?

Mr. Forth

Could that possibly be the same Mr. dc Gruchy who was reported in The Independent on 22 April as saying:

is it better for a child to steal a car or to disrupt classes … I suppose I would choose kicking a car in."? I would have thought that the judgment of anyone who makes a statement such as that must be—I shall put it as delicately as possible—somewhat suspect. That same individual has obviously failed to read my right hon. Friend's circular on drugs in schools, which states quite unequivocally that the Secretary of State would normally expect teachers to report matters related to drugs to the police. There is no softness of approach here. My right hon. Friend and I are absolutely determined to tackle the problem of drugs in schools with great vigour.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell

Does the Minister agree that in our wish to tackle the drugs problem, especially at primary school level, there is a fine balance to be struck in the way that we teach children about drugs and what they can do to people? It is a thin line because if we teach them too much, they get to know too much and by the time they reach secondary school they are actually taking drugs.

Mr. Forth

I well understand the hon. Gentleman's point; it is a concern that is frequently raised. We have to judge whether it is better to tell our young people sensibly and responsibly, and in the right context in schools, about matters such as sex and drugs, or whether to allow them to remain ignorant and to learn, in the wrong places and from the wrong people, the wrong message about those matters. The balance of our judgment—which is widely shared, as has been shown by the wide support for our circular—is that the right way to proceed is to tell young people in the proper way about the dangers of drugs, sex and sexual abuse, rather than leave them in ignorance.

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