More than half of all secondary school pupils in Flintshire have drank alcohol, a new report has shown.
The figure, which is above the national average, was revealed following a survey of 6,585 youngsters from the county’s 11 high schools.
It found that more than one in 10 year 11 pupils said they got drunk for the first time at the age of 13, while around one in three reported they were 15.
Meanwhile, more than a third of students in their final year of school said they were just 14 the first time they used cannabis.
The poll was carried out by the School Health Research Network, a partnership including the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and Cancer Research UK, which aims to improve the wellbeing of young people.
An independent charity which works to reduce alcohol misuse has warned that children who drink are at increased risk of a number of health conditions.
Dr Fiona Sim, chief medical adviser for Drinkaware, has encouraged parents in Flintshire to talk to their children about the dangers.
Responding to the figures, she said: “Alcohol can harm children while they are still developing which is why the UK chief medical officers’ say an alcohol-free childhood as the best option.
“Health risks associated with drinking underage include the possibility of brain and liver damage, increased risk of accident and injury, potential for lower educational attainment, increased risk of being involved in violence and increased likelihood of ending up in vulnerable or dangerous situations.
“It’s best to talk to your child about the risks associated with drinking.
“As a parent, you have more influence than you might think.
“Your child is likely to come to you first for information and advice about alcohol, and you can help shape their attitudes and behaviour towards alcohol by being a role model for responsible drinking.”
The results of the survey were highlighted in a report which is due to go before backbench councillors in Flintshire later this week.
The full findings will be made public in April following the poll, which more than 80 per cent of pupils took part in at the end of 2017.
In the report Claire Homard, Flintshire Council’s chief officer for education and youth, said: “All 11 Flintshire secondary schools participated in the survey during autumn term 2017.
“An event for school council representatives was co-ordinated for Flintshire schools in March 2018 to help pupils understand how to interpret research data and action plan, ahead of receiving their school report in April 2018.
“The aim was for school councils to take ownership of their school report and support in the development and implementation of a whole school action plan.
“The availability of health behaviour data on both a county and school level is particularly valuable in terms of coordinating the delivery of services and interventions.”
A county-wide action plan is now being created to address the issues raised with the help of Flintshire’s youth council, while individual school councils have been asked to develop plans for the next two years.
Members of the local authority’s education and youth scrutiny committee will make recommendations based on the information at a meeting on Thursday.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).