Children with drugs in school

Possessing and dealing ‘controlled’ drugs – drugs that are forbidden under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – is a criminal offence.

School policy

All schools should have a drugs policy establishing the ways the school will deal with drugs on school property. It should be developed in consultation with the whole school community including pupils, parents/carers, staff, governors and partner agencies. A senior member of staff should have responsibility for the drug policy and all drug issues within the school. The policy should:

  • outline the purpose of the policy;
  • state where, when and to whom the policy applies;
  • define the term ‘drugs’ and clarify the meanings of other key terms;
  • state the school’s stance towards drugs, health and the needs of pupils;
  • name the members of staff responsible for dealing with drug issues;
  • outline when police will be informed, consulted or involved in a drugs related incident, and what action is expected if police involvement is requested.

A school’s response to drug-related incidents needs to balance the needs of the pupils concerned with the wider school community. Exclusion should not be the automatic response to a drug incident and permanent exclusion should only be used in serious cases.

Students under the influence of drugs

If a pupil is suspected of being under the influence of drugs on school premises, the pupil’s safety and that of other people around them should be the school’s first priority. First Aid should be administered if needed and any appropriate support summoned. Parents, an ambulance, or the police may need to be contacted. If the child is felt to be at risk the Safeguarding Policy will come into effect and social services may need to be contacted.

Ascertaining at risk students

Symptoms signifying drug association could include: mood swings; bodily changes such as weight loss, garbled speech and panic; and/or an imperative need of finances. A student may be at risk if a combination of the following issues is present:

  • lack of allegiance to school;
  • acquaintances who use drugs;
  • aggressive classroom conduct;
  • inadequate communal skills;
  • an approving outlook towards drug use.

Search and seizure powers

School staff can search a pupil for any item if the pupil agrees. Headteachers and staff authorised by them have a statutory power under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to search pupils or their possessions, without consent, where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting the pupil may have a ‘prohibited item’, which includes illegal drugs. School staff can seize any prohibited item found as a result of a search. They can also seize any item, however found, which they consider harmful or detrimental to school discipline (eg, so called legal highs).

Where controlled drugs are found, these must be delivered to the police as soon as possible, but may be disposed of if the person thinks there is a good reason to do so. In deciding what is a ‘good reason’, the staff member should take into account all the circumstances and use their professional judgment to determine whether they can safely dispose of a seized article. Where staff are unsure as to the legal status of a substance and have reason to believe it may be a controlled drug they should treat it as such.

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • Categories of controlled drugs
  • Possible sentences