Fresh evidence that primary schools are influencing children to drink, says Swanswell

04 March 2016

Swanswell, a national alcohol and drug recovery charity, says fresh evidence released today by the University College London and the London School of Economics about under-age drinking means it’s time to think again about licensed bars in primary schools.

A study of 10,498 children found that one in seven children aged 11 had tried alcohol. Crucially, the study concluded that a child is more likely to drink if they view alcohol positively and are 80% more likely to drink if their mother is a heavy drinker.

The report adds to the mounting evidence that a child is most influenced about alcohol between the ages of six and ten and by their parents drinking habits. Evidence, says Swanswell, that primary schools should be setting children a better example than allowing parents to drink at school events.

Research published by Swanswell last year found that alcohol was served to adults at over 9,000 primary school events aimed at children in England and Wales in 2014/15.

Swanswell are calling for a change in the law so that the Temporary Event Notices required by primary schools are automatically rejected if children are going to be present. At the moment, they’re automatically granted unless there’s an objection from the police or environmental health.

The national alcohol and drug recovery charity also want head teachers to pledge to make their school an alcohol-free zone to prevent alcohol from being brought into school for raffles and as gifts to teachers.

Responding to the report Swanswell’s Chief Executive Debbie Bannigan said; ‘This report adds to the evidence that children pick up their attitude towards alcohol from their parents. It also shows that when a child has a positive approach to alcohol they’re more likely to drink it. So when a child sees a parent drinking at the school disco it’s likely to create a positive expectation around alcohol and create an early link between drinking and socialising.’

She added; ‘Most parents want to protect their children from alcohol-related harm. However, we all need to stop and think again about the impact our own behaviour can have on a child’s choices in the future. By serving alcohol to adults at the school disco we’re giving children a mixed message about drinking in an environment which should be setting a better example. Isn’t this a bar too far?’

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