Under Action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy, guidelines for developing a substance abuse policy were drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the former health boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in October 2002 to assist them in the development of appropriate substance abuse policies.
The implementation of the guidelines is the responsibility of the relevant school authorities. However, the guidelines do not advise schools to undertake drug testing of pupils and I do not consider that the policy in this regard should be changed as there is no conclusive evidence that drug testing reduces the incidence of drug misuse among young people.
I believe that alternative strategies, involving education, discussion, counselling, extra-curricular activities and the building of trust between students and adults need to be further developed.
My Department will, however, continue to monitor the situation and take into account best international practice in dealing with this issue.