MIDDLETON children as young as 11 have at least one alcoholic drink in a week, according to a survey carried out by Rochdale Council.
Other primary school pupils admitted that they smoke once or twice a week, and a shocking one in five 12 to 15-year-olds have taken drugs.
These alarming figures, which are bound to shock parents and education chiefs, came to light during a survey into the lives of children in Middleton and the rest of the borough.
The results were presented to the council's community services committee by Claire Hodgson of the Rochdale Drug and Alcohol Action Team.
The information was collected during the autumn term in 2005 and this year’s spring term, from pupils in years four and six in primary schools and years eight and 10 in secondary schools.
It showed that 14 per cent – one in seven – of primary school pupils aged eight to 11 said they had at least one alcoholic drink a week and that increased to 28 per cent for secondary school pupils.
Ten per cent of primary school pupils also admitted they had smoked at least once or twice and that rose to 46 per cent for secondary pupils.
Twenty-six per cent of all year 10 pupils said they had been offered drugs and 21 per cent of year 10 boys and 22 per cent of year 10 girls said they had taken at least one of the drugs listed on the questionnaire at some point.
When asked for reasons why, 77 per cent of secondary school pupils said ‘to look cool’, 56 per cent said 'because friends encourage them’ and 53 per cent said they ‘don’t care about the risks.’
Twenty-four per cent of primary pupils and 37 per cent of secondary pupils were 'fairly sure or are certain' that they know someone who uses drugs that are not medicines.
Five per cent of primary pupils and 22 per cent of secondary pupils said thet had been offered cannabis.
Away from drink and drugs, 15 per cent of secondary school pupils said they were fairly certain they had friends who carried weapons or other things for protection when going out.
But Miss Hodgson said there were positives to be taken from the survey.
She said: "More young people in 2006 are saying they have never tried smoking. Rochdale pupils are less likely to say they know someone taking drugs.
"And we found with this survey that the use of drugs, smoking and alcohol has decreased."
Miss Hodgson also said that young people hanging aroung in large gangs could come from their own fear of crime and being attacked.
Councillor David Clayton, Rochdale cabinet member for children, schools and families, said: "Whenever you question young people, by their very nature some will be prone to exaggerate and say they have done things they haven’t really done.
"Schools do their best to try and instil in youngsters the values of a stable lifestyle.
"But youngsters will always be and always have been prone to rebellion. And one way of rebellion is through alcohol and drugs.
"I don’t think we have got a larger problem here in Rochdale than other urban areas"
# THE Middleton schools which took part in the survey were Alderman Kay, Alkrington Primary, Cardinal Langly, Hollin Primary, Langley Primary and Middleton Technology School.