CHILDREN as young as nine have been caught with drugs on school premises in Gwent – with overall incidents across Wales and England increasing by more than a quarter in four years.

More than 2,600 cases involving drugs on school grounds were reported to police in Wales and England between 2016 and 2019, according to data released to the PA news agency under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

The vast majority of cases involved cannabis (1,899 incidents), which is according to the NHS the most widely used illegal drug in the country.

Other drugs included Class-A substances MDMA (64 incidents), cocaine (58), and heroin (nine).

Prescription drugs such as Diazepam, Ritalin, and Tramadol were also discovered in some cases.

According to the police forces with relevant data, 15-year-old children were most commonly involved in drugs-related offences on school premises (262 incidents), slightly above 14-year-olds (229 incidents).

But Gwent Police also had details of a nine-year-old being caught with cannabis in a primary school in 2017.

The majority of cases involved possession of drugs on school premises (1,779 incidents), but there were other cases of supply (108 incidents) – a more serious offence – as well as other incidents including drugs trafficking, a key indicator of “county lines” activity.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Most young people do not take drugs, and it is rare for them to be brought on to school premises.

“However, like much else, trends reflect what is happening more widely, and schools are particularly concerned about the sinister spread of the drugs trade by so-called ‘county lines’ gangs, in which vulnerable young people are coerced into dealing.

“Schools are assiduous in educating pupils about the risks of taking drugs, and the dangers of involvement in the drugs trade, but this is part of a wider and complex problem, which requires a fully coordinated and resourced response from national government working with multiple agencies.”

In total, 2,643 incidents involving drugs in school were reported to police in Wales and England between January 2016 and December 2019, figures from 23 constabularies who responded to an FOI request with relevant and comparable data show.

It found there were 589 incidents reported to police in 2016, rising to 666 the following year.

Another 637 incidents were reported in 2018, rising to 751 last year – an increase of 27.5 per cent on 2016.

This means that in 2019 alone, there were around four incidents for each day of the typical school year.

The true picture is likely to be far higher, however, as some of the biggest police forces did not provide information.

A spokesman for the Gwent force said: “Drugs have no place in our communities. If you have any concerns about this issue in your area, please let us know so that we can take action.

"Anyone with any information or concerns about drug supply can call us on 101, contact us via our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”