School exclusions for drugs and alcohol across the south among highest in the country

  • ITV Meridian's James Dunham's been to Velmead Junior School in Fleet where the life lessons could be life saving.

Schools across the south are excluding and suspending more pupils because of drugs and alcohol than most other parts of the country.

It means some primary schools are now teaching children about the dangers of substances including cocaine and cannabis.

Between 2017 and 2021 there were 465 exclusions and suspensions because of drugs and alcohol issued in Oxfordshire schools. In Reading, there were 63, and in Hampshire there were more than 1,200.

The most recent percentage across the Meridian region was at 13% - compared 11% for the rest of the country.

Children at Velmead Junior school have been taking part in a workshop run by Life Education Wessex and Thames Valley, to learn about the dangers of drugs.

The year 6 children were set tasks - including naming a drug and deciding whether it is illegal or legal.

Julia Ship of Life Education Wessex and Thames Valley said, "It's thinking about peer pressure situations, and how children deal with those scenarios.

Year 6 children were set tasks as part of the workshop.

"The vast majority of us will probably end up being bystanders in a pressurised situation, so it's knowing what to do in those events, how can we help our friends, or if we are the object of the pressure or behaviour, is there something I can do to help myself out.

Speaking about the workshops they provide, Julia added, "Throughout the whole year, we don't just do one visit, it's about those building blocks throughout the year.

"As part of the school curriculum schools have to look at online safety - they are also teaching it throughout the year.

"Children absorb so much from tv, and the internet. They absolutely have an awareness by the age of 10 as to certain drugs that may be out there."

  • Julia Ship of Life Education Wessex and Thames Valley

Headteacher of Velmead Junior School, Andy Howard said, "By the time our children leave us, they've had seven years of drugs education, so the programme builds progressively, and that adds to children's knowledge and confidence to be able to understand the issues.

"In response to parental request, we ran a session on county lines for our parents of 10 and 11-year-olds.

"That was around preparing parents and children for their step into secondary school where there is more exposure to different opportunities.

"What we are looking to develop in children is good knowledge and facts, and also the confidence to make informed decisions.

"We're developing young people to become critical thinkers, especially if they are receiving information through social media."

If you are in need of support you can contact the following organisations for help:

DrugFAM  0300 888 3853

Action on Addiction 020 3981 5525

Turning Point