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Headteachers from 10 Bury St Edmunds high schools and colleges unite to tackle County Lines drug crisis

Headteachers and principals from 10 schools and colleges in and around Bury St Edmunds are coming together with parents next week to tackle the County Lines drug crisis.

Parents and carers of students at the schools have been invited by school leaders to voice their concerns about what they referred to in a letter to parents as the ‘rapidly growing issue of County Lines in this area’ and the ‘increasing risks’ facing children at a meeting at West Suffolk College on Monday.

Tim Coulson, chief executive of the Unity Schools Partnership of which one of the schools taking part, Sybil Andrews Academy, is a member, said: “This has gone beyond the individual school and we wanted to hold a meeting for all parents, regardless of which school their children go to, to draw attention to the county lines problem in the area.

Dr Tim Coulson. (20893428)
Dr Tim Coulson. (20893428)

“This isn’t something that just one or two schools are struggling with and we are interested in working with parents and the authorities in trying to do something about it.”

He added that, while some parents might be aware of the problem, the meeting would also help other parents understand the dangers facing their children.

“Although drugs have the obvious dangers involved in taking them, County Lines opens up a whole other world of criminal exploitation and we are seeing that happen,” he said.

“It’s that which we want to work on with various authorities because the illegal nature of it will stop youngsters speaking out.”

The other schools involved in the meeting are Abbeygate Sixth Form, The Albany Centre, County Upper, Culford School, King Edward VI School, Priory School, Thurston Community College and St Benedict’s Catholic School.

Imogen Senior, headteacher of St Benedict’s, said the purpose of the meeting was to find a way to work together across all the schools to start taking preventative action.

“If we all work together and learn what the signs might be then we stand a better chance of stopping it happening to our students,” she said.

In a collective statement, West Suffolk College and Suffolk County Council said they took the safety of their children ‘very seriously’.

They said: “We want to ensure we have raised awareness of the issues surrounding County Lines and support our parents, carers and young people to recognise signs, know where to go for help and report any concerns.”

Superintendent Kim Warner, West Suffolk’s policing commander, said working with partners in education, health and local authorities was key to stopping people becoming victims of County Lines dealing.

He said: “We are working tirelessly to disrupt, arrest, and prosecute those people that choose to target Suffolk. If drug dealers think Suffolk is a safe haven, they are wrong.”

Monday’s event is for parents/carers who have been invited and the public are not permitted to attend. The partnership will consider a date at a later stage for a public meeting.

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