Sidmouth College sending home hard message on drugs

Jim Ingham-Hill is now co-principal at Sidmouth College.

Jim Ingham-Hill is now co-principal at Sidmouth College. - Credit: Archant

The joint leader of Sidmouth College is confident its students are clear on the dangers of drugs after ‘comatose’ teens nearly overwhelmed emergency services.

Co-principal James Ingham-Hill said the school was proactive and had recently wrote to parents to warn of so-called ‘benching’ – youngsters claiming they are staying at a friend’s house, when instead they are taking drugs or drinking and then potentially sleeping on a park bench.

Police spoke out earlier this month after paramedics struggled to cope with revellers at the annual fair who had consumed ‘booze, legal highs, ecstasy, or a cocktail of all three’.

Mr Ingham-Hill said: “Safeguarding of our students is our main priority.

“We work with a variety of agencies within the community and are aware of local and national concerns regarding the use of illegal substances by young people.

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“We routinely highlight student welfare issues as part of our comprehensive personal development programme, bringing in specialist speakers where possible, and offer guidance and education to help safeguard against risk. “We recently held a session with our more senior students, and wrote to their parents about illegal substances and so-called ‘benching’.

“Students also understand our clear position on substance abuse and of the consequences should they choose to engage with it.”

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Adam Baker, a dad and Church Street resident, told the Herald youngsters could regularly be seen ‘hollow-eyed’ in the early hours, and the issue was getting worse.

He said: “We see them and they are definitely not drinking. They are around the town until five or six in the morning regularly on Fridays and Saturdays.

“You can see them in Blackmore Gardens the next morning looking hollow-eyed and pale. They are clearly under the influence of something that’s not alcohol.

“It’s increased in the last month or two. There’s a core group of about half a dozen of them who run around the town.

“It’s good that the school is doing something about it. They’re taught about the risks of drugs all the time.”

Warning of the legal implications, Sergeant Andy Squires said: “Possession of controlled substances is a criminal offence with very serious implications for those found to be breaking the law.

“Any child over the age of 10 is criminally liable in law and can be prosecuted.

“The police work with a number of partner agencies, including all schools and colleges, to safeguard children and young people and bring offenders to justice.”

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