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Three Grammars mount a united front to tackle 'these difficult issues' together

By Claire McNeilly

Three of Belfast's leading grammars have teamed up to take on the widespread scourge of drugs in our schools.

In an unprecedented move, the principals of Campbell College, Bloomfield Collegiate and Strathearn School in the east of the city are presenting a united front to address the growing problem.

Their first action as a team has been to produce an e-safety guidance booklet that they intend to issue to parents within the next fortnight.

Robert Robinson, headmaster at Campbell College; Dr Darrin Barr, Bloomfield Collegiate principal, and Nicola Connery, head at Strathearn School, said a collaborative approach was "essential for the well-being of our young people".

"The issue of drugs in schools is a prevalent one across the board, but it is symptomatic of a much bigger picture," they said in a joint statement.

"We are facing a very real societal problem at present with young teens exposed to a multiple of evils, mostly fuelled via social media.

"Issues around mental health, substance abuse and the misuse of social media are increasing in their frequency in all schools, and schools recognise the important role we as educators play as part of the solution.

"It is our duty not only to educate and encourage pupils to make good choices, but also to correct and support them when they make poor ones."

The heads said they cannot and should not work in isolation to achieve this.

"We are only partial custodians in the lives of young people.

"We must partner with parents and guardians to complete the circle of care for a child whilst also collaborating with other schools," they said. "In addition, we need to connect with the many other organisations that exist to support children and young people in wider society.

"Rather than shock and judgment, we all need to take a step back and ask some tough questions as to why this is happening and how we can work together to protect and guide our teenagers as they navigate their journey through some very difficult social terrain.

"Children and young people are influenced by a multitude of positive and negative factors in their day-to-day life, and no matter how seemingly sophisticated they appear - they are still children."

The principals said this is the first time joint parent guidance has been undertaken "and we hope it will be the first of many collaborative initiatives in the future".

"As leaders of these schools we are each committed to working in partnership to help support parents and pupils as we tackle these difficult issues together in the best interests of our young people," the principals added.

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