Playground pill-poppers

22.06.02: UP TO 10% of children in some British secondary schools are on prescription drugs to control their behaviour. And that percentage is rising fast, according to an independent report published yesterday.

"We are in danger of creating a new medicalised underclass," the report, by the Omega Foundation, concludes. "New forms of brain scans are selecting a proportion of children as 'no-hopers'. They are then treated with drugs and teachers often give up on them."

The foundation identifies two reasons for the increased use of drugs and testing in schools. The first was the pressure of exam league tables, which led to many unruly children being excluded from schools.

"When exclusion proved unacceptable," says one of the authors, Professor Jack Thompson of Sheffield University, "they were kept in school but drugged to make them behave."

Second, the involvement of large firms in the funding of education has meant that managers want to know which children will represent a good return on their investment.

Children who run into difficulties, especially those in schools at the top of the league tables, are likely to be sent off for brain scans.

The neural efficiency analyser, which measures the speed at which the brain processes information, is used on those who fall behind with their work, while brain electrical activity mapping (Beam) can identify learning disorders.

Children who are badly behaved are also sent for scanning. Pet scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the frontal lobes of the brain can reveal patterns of neural firing linked w