128,000 pupils have tried class A drugs
By Sarah Womack and Nic Fleming
Last Updated: 2:53am BST 30/03/2007
One child in 25 at secondary school in England has taken cocaine, heroin or another class A drug, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Health.
The figures would mean 128,000 pupils aged 11 to 15 have been involved with the drugs.
More than one child in two of the same age has drunk alcohol, and one in six has taken an illegal drug of some sort, most commonly cannabis.
Class A drugs were defined as ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, and amphetamines.
The report by The Information Centre for Health and Social Care, a Government-funded body created in 2005 out of the former NHS Information Authority and the Department of Health Statistics Unit, paints an alarming picture for parents.
Astonishingly, it was welcomed by the Government because the figures show a small fall in the proportion drinking alcohol and taking some sorts of drugs. However the percentage of pupils who have taken a class A drug remains the same as it was in 2001, four per cent.
The report is based on a national survey of secondary school pupils by the National Centre for Social Research and the National Foundation for Educational Research.
Some 8,200 pupils in 290 schools in England completed questionnaires in the autumn term of last year.
Boys who had drunk beer, wine or spirits in the week before the poll had consumed 12.3 units - equivalent to six pints of normal strength beer - compared with 10.5 units for girls, who had drunk the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine in a week.
In 2006, 21 per cent of pupils aged 11 to 15 drank alcohol in the previous week, down from 26 per cent in 2001.
However, a closer examination of the figures shows that those girls and boys who admitted drinking during the previous seven days were drinking more - 11.4 units in a week, up nine per cent on the previous year.
This figure is the highest for at least 16 years. Children aged 11 to 13 admitted to the biggest rise in alcohol consumption with an average increase from 8.2 units to 10.1 units between 2005 and last year.
The proportion of pupils who had never drunk alcohol was 46 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 2001.
Some 17 per cent of pupils had taken drugs in the past year, down from 19 per cent in 2005.
Nine per cent admitted taking drugs in the last month of the report, compared with 11 per cent the previous year. The most popular was cannabis (10 per cent had tried it last year, down from 13 per cent in 2001), followed by glue and aerosols (five per cent in 2006, down from seven per cent in 2001).
Cocaine was taken by two per cent (up from 1.2 per cent in 2001), and heroin by 0.5 per cent (0.7 per cent in 2001).
Girls were more likely than boys to be regular smokers, 10 per cent of girls compared with seven per cent of boys.
Robert Whelan, the deputy director of the think-tank Civitas, said the figures would alarm parents who "entrust children to schools for most of their waking hours and would be worried about the drug taking going on".