PUPILS at a school for “neglected and delinquent” boys took part in an experimental drugs trial without their parents’ consent in the 1960s, National Archives files have revealed.

Richmond Hill Approved School consented to the most disruptive teenagers being given an anti-convulsant drug prescribed for epilepsy for six months, in an attempt to improve their behaviour as part of a Home Office approved programme.

It is understood the school, for boys aged 15 to 17, was established at a Victorian building on the site in 1961 after The Green Howards moved from its regimental headquarters and continued until 1973, when approved schools were replaced by community homes.

The National Archives files show letters written by three doctors - who have since died - including ones by the school’s psychiatrist Dr JR Hawkings, about the planned drug trials.

Dr Hawking’s note, written in 1967, includes a request for permission from the Home Office to test drugs on children who were “impulsive, explosive, irritable, restless and aggressive”.

He stated the trial of beclamide, which has sedative effects, would be “a perfectly normal and legitimate therapy for certain types of disturbed adolescent”.

Home Office psychiatrist Dr Pamela Mason replied recommending “maximum support for this project” at the school, which had about 80 pupils.

She said: “From the clinical or practical point of view these are the boys that can produce considerable problems within a school and this sort of research into possible drug treatment is to be welcomed.”

Results of the trial, which took place in 1968, are not included in the files.

Bob Hammal, a teacher who lived at the school between 1968 and 1972, said he had been shocked to hear the trial had taken place, particularly as it had been without parents’ consent.

He said pupils and staff had got on well, adding: “That was unacceptable behaviour by the establishment. It’s a fact that occasionally we did have circumstances which were perhaps less than delightful. Boys did abscond, boys did bully, but by and large over a week the issues were very pleasantly approached and very pleasantly resolved.”

As the Richmond Hill trial got under way, a second trial at Springhead Park Approved School near Leeds, was supported by Dr Mason, but was dismissed by the headteacher Shelagh Sunner. Ms Sunner said the Home Office had been “scratching their heads” about what to do with children with behavioural issues.