At least one in every 10 children in their final year of primary school admits that they have drunk alcohol in the last week, a poll suggests.
New research found that 13% of 10 or 11-year-old boys and 10% of girls the same age said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage in the last seven days.
And one in every 100 young boys admitted that they drank alcohol during three out of the last seven days.
Charity Alcohol Concern described the figures as “frightening”.
Alcohol consumption increased steadily as pupils got older, according to the poll.
By the time children reach Year 10, when they are aged 14 and 15, 28% admit to drinking alcohol at least once during the week.
And 17% of girls in Year 10 admit they have been drunk at least once in the last week, with 4% saying they were intoxicated on at least two out of the last seven days.
The findings come from a report by the Schools Health Education Unit which questioned more than 68,000 10 to 15-year-olds in 2012 on a variety of topics, including their consumption of alcohol and drugs.
Worryingly, one in ten Year 10 pupils admit that they have taken drugs at the same time as drinking.
But the number of children aged 14 and 15 who drink more than 10 units a week has steadily declined since it peaked in 1995 – when one in every five boys and about 14% of girls admitted drinking at least 10 units every week. Now 9% of Year 10 pupils admit drinking more than 10 units a week.
Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, said: “These numbers are really frightening, the Chief Medical Officer advises that an alcohol free childhood is the safest option and that those under 15 years old, ideally, should not drink at all and Alcohol Concern wholeheartedly supports this.
“That 17% of girls in year 10 report being drunk in the last week is a wake-up call, this kind of drinking can have all sorts of impact on a child’s development. We have to face the fact that this is happening and get a grip on it.
“It may feel that introducing children to alcohol in a safe and controlled environment at home is the right thing to do, but all the research indicates that the younger someone starts drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol in later life.”