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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 00:09 GMT
Pupils admit drug and alcohol use
Teenager drinking beer
Teenagers freely admitted drinking excessively
Many children aged 10 to 15 in England have had alcoholic drinks, a survey for school inspectors suggests.

One in seven 12 to 15-year-olds has tried illegal drugs and a fifth have been drunk, the Ofsted research on lifestyle, habits and concerns shows.

Around a third of school pupils said they had been bullied and half said their greatest worry was exams.

Four out of five of the 111,000 children questioned said they wanted lessons to be more fun and interesting.

The vast majority (86%) of children considered themselves to be quite or very healthy.

Graphic: Alcohol

Children also have a strong sense of community and 65% have helped raise money for charity or a local group.

The TellUs2 online survey targeted children aged between 10 and 15 in England.

It asked them about their habits, lifestyle and general concerns and anxieties.

The survey shows there are challenges and pressures that we need to address with decisive action
Ed Balls, Schools Minister

Ofsted's chief inspector of education Christine Gilbert urged ministers to take the findings seriously.

She said: "We urge policy makers, local authorities and schools to look hard at the findings and use them to influence their plans and actions.

"The survey presents much that is positive about life for children and young people today.

"However, it is also clear that more needs to be done to address children and young people's worries and concerns about how safe they feel; about exams and tests; and about what would help them learn better and where they need to go for help when they have a problem."

Key issues

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) believes the survey shows that the vast majority of young people in England feel happy, safe, enjoy life and are doing well at school.

Even small children suffer levels of stress that would have been unimaginable 30 years ago
Clive, Birmingham

Schools Minister Ed Balls said: "This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for children and young people but the survey also shows there are challenges and pressures that we need to address with decisive action.

"Children, parents and teachers have told us through the consultation we are running to support the forthcoming Children's Plan that young people have an unprecedented range of positive opportunities.

"But that there are also some issues, like young people experimenting with alcohol or other risky behaviour, that collectively we need more action to address."

We need to work together as a society to deal with the problems that these young people are raising
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive, The Children's Society

Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "These findings are more evidence of our broken society.

"Gordon Brown is in denial about this problem, which is why his government is unable to offer any solutions to it."

The survey's key findings included:

  • 15% of children aged between 12 and 15 said they had experimented with illegal drugs, most often cannabis, but also heroin, cocaine and ecstasy
  • Nearly half (48%) of 10 to 15-year-olds said they had consumed alcoholic drinks, with one in five claiming to have been drunk at least once in the past four weeks
  • One in six 14 and 15-year-olds admitted to getting drunk at least three times in the previous four weeks
  • The vast majority - 79% - called for more fun and interesting lessons
  • Four out of 10 pupils said they wanted quieter and better behaved classmates and many (35%) were stressed about their school work.
  • Some 73% of respondents said they took part in sports or other activities such as cycling and running for at least 30 minutes on more than three days a week
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) said they had never smoked a cigarette and 80% said they had never taken drugs
  • University aspirations

    Children have definite ideas about what would improve their lives.

    This includes better and/or more information on healthy eating (20%), alcohol (27%), smoking (26%), drugs (31%) and sex and relationships(37%).

    When asked about their future, 50% had ambitions to go to university.

    The Children's Society chief executive Bob Reitemeier said: "Ofsted's survey is further evidence that too many children and young people are still facing problems in childhood.

    "We need to work together as a society to deal with the problems that these young people are raising- for example we can only effectively tackle the alcohol and drug misuse among young people by addressing the wider binge-drinking culture among adults.

    "The key finding from Ofsted's survey is that children have a lot to say in how their lives can be improved."

    The research was conducted for Ofsted and the Department for Children, Schools and Families by Ipsos Mori and will form the basis for inspections and government targets.

    The research was carried out across 141 local authorities between April and June 2007.

    NUT reaction to the Ofsted survey

    Parents alarmed by school survey
    14 Jun 07 |  Education
    Row over school 'drinking' survey
    01 Jun 07 |  Education
    Ofsted 'confirms the obvious'
    04 May 07 |  Education

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