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Children as young as 9, caught at school with drugs

Children as young as nine were caught on school premises with drugs – with overall incidents increasing by more than a quarter in four years, an investigation has found.

Between 2016 and 2019, police in England and Wales reported more than 2,600 cases involving drugs on school grounds, according to data released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.
According to the NHS the overwhelming majority of cases involved cannabis, the country’s most widely used illegal drug.

Other drugs included MDMA substitute Class A cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy.
Many incidents included drug use at school grounds, although there were other procurement incidents-a more serious crime-as well as drug dealing, a primary indication of “county lines” violence.
Headteachers said it’s “rare” to bring drugs to school premises, but added that schools are concerned about gangs forcing young people into dealing with them.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the School and College Leaders Group, said: “Most young people do not take drugs, and it is rare for them to be brought on to school premises.”

Like much else, though, developments represent what’s occurring more broadly, and schools are especially worried about the insidious proliferation of opioid abuse across so-called ‘county lines’ groups, where disadvantaged teenagers are coerced into selling.

“Schools are assiduous in educating pupils about the risks of taking drugs, and the dangers of involvement in the drugs trade, but this is part of a wider and complex problem, which requires a fully coordinated and resourced response from national government working with multiple agencies.”

In general, between January 2016 and December 2019, 2,643 cases involving narcotics in school were reported to police in England and Wales, statistics from 23 constabularies that replied to a FOI request with specific and comparable data reveal.
It found 589 incidents reported in 2016 were reported to police, rising to 666 the following year. Another 637 incidents were reported in 2018, rising to 751 last year-a 27.5 per cent increase over 2016.
This means that for every day of the typical English school year there were around four incidents in 2019 alone.
However, the true image is likely to be even larger, since two of the country’s biggest police forces refused to provide details.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said: “We know that whilst this doesn’t paint a picture of a constant stream of drug deals taking place in the classroom, the numbers are still worrying and prove how naive it would be to think drugs, associated with so many adult problems, aren’t present in some of our schools and amongst some school age children.”

“Sadly too often we prefer to imagine they aren’t.”

The report shows that there were 1,899 cases concerning weed, while MDMA (64 accidents) and cocaine (58) were among the most common substances confiscated at school premises.
Heroin was discovered in nine cases, as well as prescription drugs such as Diazepam, Ritalin and Tramadol.
Possession offenses accounted for 1,779 incidents, with 108 supply-related offenses and 62 included drug trafficking as “other” offenses.

According to police forces with appropriate records, adolescents aged 15 were more often engaged in drug-related crimes at school premises (262 incidents), just over the age of 14 (229 incidents).
But Gwent Police also had details about 2017 when a nine-year-old was caught with cannabis at a primary school.
Each police force in England and Wales was asked to provide the number of reports of illegal substances seized or confiscated from school premises in their area, and to provide details where possible.

Of those who replied to the question from the FOI, 21 gave specifics of the categories of substances involved, 12 gave details of the form of crime prosecuted, and 11 gave the persons concerned different ages.
At least 200 incidents involved people aged 18 years and older, rather than children, and forces gave details for all educational establishments rather than just schools in some responses.
Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for children and youth said: “There is evidence showing that more children and young people are believed to be using drugs.”

“It is essential for schools and colleges to work in partnership with local officers alongside youth and family support services for support and advice and where required, operational intervention, if a pupil or student is found to have brought drugs into school or college. ”

The guidance includes detailed advice to staff on what to do if drugs are found in a school or college premises and a student in possession of drugs is found.

“School and college staff are best placed to decide on the most appropriate response to tackling drugs within their schools and colleges and can have a key role in identifying students at risk of drug misuse.”

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