The country's largest secondary school will use drug-sniffer dogs to drive the zero tolerance message home to students.

The board at Rangitoto College approved the use of trained detection dogs "if and when needed" at its last meeting.

Principal David Hodge said the school was sending a strong message to its 3163 students that drugs were not tolerated in society or school.

"You have to be fairly naive to think there are not drugs in the community and one of the functions of the school is to make sure those drugs don't come here."

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Mr Hodge said the move was a deterrent.

Parents and the community would be informed this week. The searches would be supported by educational visits and demonstrations by trained dogs from the North Shore Police.

Other schools such as King's College and St Peter's College in Auckland, Mountain View High School in Timaru and Hagley Community College, Christchurch, already employ private firms and services provided by police.

The Education Amendment Act prevents dogs from sniffing children or their personal property but dogs can screen desks, lockers and any school-owned property.