Last week, in what must have been a quiet news day for the tabloids, a small article appeared in one national paper concerning Cheadle Hulme School’s stand on drugs and our policy of ‘random drug tests on pupils’.
The 100 word piece implied that the policy was a new step, arising from concerns that ‘some pupils took illegal substances.’ The reality of the matter is that the policy has been in place for several years and was introduced before my time as Head. ‘Random’ is a bit of a misnomer too: I don’t stand at the gates and pick an arbitrary group to swab. There has to be good cause to test.
In Loco Parentis
It is certainly true to say that we are concerned for our pupils, but we are no more concerned about drugs as a threat to their well-being than we have ever been. As a school that takes its motto of ‘In Loco Parentis’ very seriously, we are concerned for the emotional and physical well-being of each and every pupil; we are concerned that they create healthy and long-lasting friendships; we are concerned that they fulfil their academic potential; we are concerned that they develop their broader skills and interests; we are concerned that they develop personal confidence and moral integrity. Our list of concerns at times seems endless. It’s why we feel that excellent pastoral care is so important; it’s why we believe a full and contemporary well-being programme is crucial; it’s why we are constantly asking ourselves whether the education we are providing is helping our pupils to achieve the above.
Importantly, last week’s article rightly asserted that drugs testing would only be carried out with parental consent.
Successful schools flourish in no small part due to strong partnerships with homes. At CHS, ‘in loco parentis’ underpins the School’s founding – its ethos and its spirit. Although the School has moved from being a co-educational boarding school providing an education to orphans and necessitous children, to a modern, independent, co-educational day school, our commitment to the motto has remained as strong as ever.
In the recent CBI report ‘First Steps – A New Approach For Our Schools’, one of the key conclusions the report asserts is that ‘Parental engagement matters to educational performance – in the early years and throughout schooling.’ Parental engagement is about support: support for the child and support for the School. At CHS we seek to offer a broad education to our students and we aim to do this in partnership with parents – keeping the child at the centre of what we do and of the actions that we take. In addition to the usual parental evenings regarding their child’s academic performance, subject choices and university preparation, we have begun to offer talks for parents on such matters as cyberbullying and the internet (Cathy Wood), the effects of alcohol abuse in young people (Dr Aric Sigman, ‘Alcohol Nation’) and the devastating consequences of drug addiction on one family (Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, ‘Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid?’).
When matters of concern arise – the child is underperforming, or appears unwell, or seems troubled, it is both the child and home that we speak with. When a child becomes embroiled in a behavioural issue or allegations are made about them, it is both the child and home that we speak with.
Taking A Stand on Drugs
Going back to the tabloid article, drug testing is part of our school strategy to deter students from engaging with addictive substances. We educate through our curriculum, both in class time and through lectures, and through our pastoral care system which offers pupils the opportunity to discuss with staff or other agencies any issues or concerns they have relating to health and the use or abuse of any substance.
Knowing that there are boundaries, that we will act given sufficient reason, and that we do so in the full knowledge of parents is essential to help students make the right choices. Taking a strong stand against drugs is non-negotiable. I have yet to find a parent who disagrees.
Head, Lucy Pearson