Most 15-year-olds drink regularly

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More than half of all 14 to 15- year-olds are drinking alcohol every week, according to a report published today by the Schools Health Education Unit, writes Ngaio Crequer.

Researchers found that few of the 48 schools they sampled were satisfied with their alcohol education and none was convinced it was changing pupils' drinking behaviour for the better.

The survey found that in year 7, the average total intake of those who drank varied from 1.3 units to 4.4 units a week. (One unit is equivalent to half a pint of beer or a glass of wine). In the sixth form, the average intake varied between 6.9 and 21.8 units.

All the schools attempted to provide a programme of alcohol education but they varied in nature and in duration. Most schools teach about alcohol in the personal and social education programmes, but some placed it within the science curriculum. But the survey warned that there were significantly greater numbers of drinking pupils in schools where alcohol was part of the science curriculum.

The realistic aim was to encourage young adults to drink sensibly rather than try to stop them. Alcohol education should be aimed at several different age groups.

Alcohol education in schools; Schools Health Education Unit, School of Education, University of Exeter; pounds 20.