The project I am working on is an app and website for young people in London called WellHappy. It is a free health app for young people aged 12-25 in London and it allows you to search through thousands of local support services, including mental health, sexual health, drugs, alcohol and stop smoking services and find the nearest to you.
Like a lot of other young people, when I started to struggle, I had no idea where to turn. I didn’t want to go to my GP and I didn’t feel that I could talk to my friends or family. I wish I had had something like WellHappy to help me find the help that was right for me.
The app’s FAQ section on drugs and alcohol includes a range of advice including whether you can get expelled from school or college for taking drugs, to which they rightly say:
Yes, but your school or college does not have to automatically exclude you if they find out you have been taking drugs or have drugs on the school premises. The school/college will have their own drug policy in place which will outline procedures to be taken. They will also take into account the seriousness of the drug incident.
Interestingly they don’t include a similar question in their alcohol or smoking sections.
Mentor’s recent toolkit on developing a school drug policy had a case study (borrowed from the government’s 2004 guidance) on a Southwark school that sought the views of pupils that were at risk of exclusion when revising their drug policy:
A Year 10 tutor from a secondary school sought advice from the LEA to work with a group of pupils at risk of exclusion; the group contained both confirmed and suspected cannabis users. It was decided that the pupils would be approached and asked if they would participate in a focus group to discuss the school’s drug policy. This would enable them to become aware of the possible consequences of their behaviour and allow their views to be considered as part of the policy review process.
A number of issues were discussed that were relevant to both the school and to the pupils. They discussed the issue of informing parents/carers when a pupil is found using cannabis at school and agreed that this would be a deterrent if it were policy. The pupils also gave suggestions about how young people should be questioned by the school and what support could be offered.
This exercise increased the pupils’ understanding of school rules and the consequences of breaking them as well as reinforcing the school’s concern for their well-being. It enabled the pupils to feel that their views were valued.