Schoolchildren 'caught with drugs'
Hundreds of schoolchildren as young as eight have been caught with drugs on school premises, new figures reveal.
Data from police forces across England and Wales shows Class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine are among the illegal substances seized in more than 2,000 incidents and offences over the last four years.
Teachers described the figures as a "worry", and "the tip of the iceberg of what young people are encountering on the streets".
The data, from 34 police forces dating back to 2011, was obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.
Cannabis, the most widely used illegal drug in the UK, was involved in more incidents and offences than any other - 625 - while cocaine was present in 27 cases.
Others confiscated by police included LSD, amphetamines, MDMA and ecstasy. There were two cases each of heroin possession on school premises in the West Midlands, Surrey and Greater Manchester - plus another incident in Hertfordshire, their police forces said.
The highest number of incidents and offences for the three complete years from 2011/12 - 2013/14 was 229 in Hampshire. There was 144 incidents at schools in Avon and Somerset, and 138 in the West Midlands.
In Wales, South Wales police reported 92 incidents.
Only four incidents involved children under 11. This included an eight-year-old and a nine-year-old in Staffordshire primary schools who were caught with cannabis, a 10-year-old girl at a Leicestershire primary found to be in possession of cannabis, and a 10-year-old in the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) force area who was found with £5 worth of cannabis.
GMP also reported a 14-year-old getting caught in possession of heroin with a street value of £500, while a 16-year-old pupil was also found with a quantity of the same drug worth £330.
The majority of incidents (241) involved 15 to 16-year-olds, ahead of 11 to 14-year-olds (231 incidents).
The figures showed a slight year-on-year decrease in the number of incidents, from a peak of 657 in 2011/12, to 611 and 560 the following years. There were 407 incidents to the end of 2014.
The vast majority of incidents occurred on school premises (752), although colleges and universities in the force areas also reported incidents.
The data showed non-students were also caught with drugs on school grounds. This included a 30-year-old groundsman at a Humberside college, while GMP said a 50-year-old cleaner was found with £20 worth of cannabis at a primary school.
Parents were also among those in trouble. A 30-year-old parent who brought 20 tranquillisers on to a Lancashire school premises, while a 19-year-old mother in Leicestershire was caught with cannabis. Drugs were also seized from two school employees in North Yorkshire, police said.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "Any incident of drugs on school premises is worrying as it will often only be the tip of the iceberg of what young people are encountering on the streets.
"Teachers and school leaders are always alert to the potential for young people being involved in drug or alcohol abuse.
"Unfortunately, many of the programmes and specialist support on which schools could rely to assist them in supporting and educating young people in the perils of substance abuse have been cut under this coalition government."
Of the police forces in England and Wales that responded to the FoI request, 28 gave details of the types of drugs involved, 18 gave details of the type of school - for example, secondary or college - and 13 gave details of the ages of the individuals involved.