An innovative pilot scheme to help prevent alcohol abuse among the young in the UK has been hailed a success, with organisers now calling on the government to roll it out nationwide.
Ten secondary schools in Southampton opted to take part in the project launched by alcohol education specialists, the TTC Group.
More than 2,000 of the city's 11-12-year-olds took part in the initiative, which organisers hope will be taken up by education authorities across the country in the wake of reports of the growing number of 12-year-old alcoholics and increase in binge drinking in the UK today.
"Young people need to be made abundantly aware about excessive consumption and the social implications. When children are given information to make informed choices they more often than not make the right decision," said Jenny Wynn, Group Director of TTC, which launched the pilot in answer to the Government's publication of its Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for the UK.
She said current popular teaching methods about alcohol for children were using outdated teaching materials that not working in getting the message over to youngsters.
A recent survey showed that child alcoholism was resulting in a record number of preteen and teenagers being treated in hospital for alcohol poisoning, liver disease and drink-related psychiatric illness.
In the Southampton schools project, year 7 children learn about the dangers of "binge" drinking and how it effects their development.
The programme was linked with former pop idol David Graham and his "Natural High" Schools Tour promoting a healthy lifestyle.
According to Marion Cooper, TTC tutor, a child in almost every session said they knew someone who had their stomach pumped and three quarters of the 11-year-olds had all tried alcohol. "The whole message to schoolchildren is that if you drink alcohol you are more at risk of causing serious problems to your health. They need to have a balanced view on alcohol and learn how to drink sensibly once they are over 18. The course gives them choices in how to have fun in so many other ways including sports, music and reading. They responded very positively."
Regents Park Community College teacher Amanda Humphries said the education was "inspirational and motivating".
As part of the experiment, TTC has also educated a number of teachers in how to present the lessons to older pupils as they begin to learn to drive and to future generations of secondary schoolchildren. Teachers have received training manuals, lesson plans and information on DVD.
Cross curriculum teacher packs are being prepared so that the message about alcohol can be given out during other lessons such as French to show the different attitudes to alcohol, maths where pupils learn to calculate the number of alcohol units in a drink and science to show the effects on health.
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