SCHOOLS ARE being urged to introduce sniffer dogs to stop pupils using drugs, following a successful pilot scheme that has the backing of most parents and children.
Researchers found the use of dogs at six Buckinghamshire secondary schools was "very successful" at detecting and preventing drugs coming into the classroom.
Professor Allyson MacVean, Director of the John Grieve Centre for Policing and Community Safety, made the suggestion following a study of a pilot scheme using sniffer dogs in schools.
The experiment at six schools in Buckinghamshire won backing from police, parents and even pupils. Professor MacVean said that she now hoped to see the initiative taken up in schools across the country.
A total of 5,500 pupils from schools in the county were exposed to the scheme. The initiative involved out-of-hours searches of the premises by sniffer dogs, and daytime visits to the schools by dogs which were able to approach individual pupils.
The experiment, carried out in the 2003-04 academic year, involved dogs visiting each of the six schools four times: once out of hours, once to allow the pupils a chance to meet the dogs and hear about the scheme, and two further visits by the dogs and their handlers for searches.
Organisers chose Labradors, rather than potentially more frightening breeds, for any visits when dogs would approach pupils individually.
The dogs are trained in such a way that pupils would not necessarily know that something had been detected on their person, and staff were always on hand to provide extra support.
The results from Professor MacVean’s study found backing for the scheme from 82 per cent of pupils who returned questionnaires and 89 per cent of parents, with 92% of staff in favour.
Professor MacVean said: "I think I would like to see it implemented in all schools, I think it would be part of the education that they are doing now." She emphasised that the success of the scheme relied on the bond established between the dogs and the pupils. She said that any attempt to introduce dogs into primary schools would have to be treated with caution.