PUPILS across Tynedale are set to benefit from an extended drugs education programme which is being backed by the Duchess of Northumberland.

The Alnwick Garden Trust, the charity of the Duchess, Jane Percy, has an ongoing drugs education programme linked with The Poison Garden - part of the garden filled with poisonous plants.

The scheme is expanding further with the introduction of outreach workshops which will be delivered to schools and youth groups.

Claire Mitchell has been appointed the new drugs education officer, and said she had already been in touch with Tynedale secondary schools in the hope they would take up the offer.

She said: “There will be hundreds of thousands of people in Northumberland who don’t visit the garden and, because there’s no prevention service in Northumberland at the moment, they aren’t going to get it unless they are coming in to the garden. That’s why the outreach is so important.”

Until now, Northumberland has had no support services commissioned to provide prevention services to young people. There are only services offering support to those who already have issues with substance misuse.

The sessions Claire would deliver would begin in Northumberland secondary schools.

The material would be in line with the national curriculum, and would work best in a series of around seven sessions.

There would also be an opportunity for interactive elements, including music and drama.

“Everything shows that, if prevention work is done properly, it will be effective,” she explained.

“That’s not just one on one sessions around drugs and alcohol, it’s very much about being a structured programme with a series of sessions also around things like confidence building and peer pressure.”

Both Claire and the Duchess explained that the focus would be on giving facts around drugs.

The Duchess said: “If you can prevent one death, and maybe raise awareness in an 11-year-old, for example, to stop he or she saying yes to a drug from their friends, this will have been worthwhile.

“This is about encouraging everyone to talk about the problem of drug abuse and the availability of drugs.”