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Teachers may join drinks clampdown.

Byline: By Neil Mckay

Teacherscould soon be trawling pubs and clubs with police officers in the latest bid to clamp down on under-age drinkers.

Police chiefs in County Durham have had discussions with comprehensive school heads, who they say have welcomed the idea.

It would see teachers marching into pubs and pointing out those teenagers who should not be on the premises. But last night teachers' unions said they were "very wary" of the scheme which could destroy relationships in the classroom.

Speaking at a launch of a campaign to target "binge" drinkers in Weardale, the Wear Valley and Teesdale yesterday, Insp George Ledger, of Durham Police, said: "Licensees can often find it difficult to tell whether somebody is 16 or 18, but if a head- teacher walks into a pub with the police, the effect will be for pupils to scuttle out of the back window to try to get away.

"We are positive this would have the desired effect and, having had talks with some headteachers, the idea has been well received. It is not about getting the youngsters in court, it is about discouraging under-age drinking, and especially binge drinking."

Under the proposals, teachers would accompany officers to target known haunts and point out under-age drinkers in the bars. But Elaine Kay, principal officer for the National Union of Teachers, said: "I would urge caution to any of our members asked to do something like this. It is not going to be conducive to good relationships within a school. It is the responsibility of a headteacher to deal with problems which occur within a school, not to go out at weekends with police trying to find out what pupils get up to.

"And it is the responsibility of licensees to ensure they do not serve alcohol to under-age drinkers. I would be very wary about such a scheme."

Alec McCoy, licensing officer for Wear Valley District Council, said: "One aim of this campaign is about protecting children. Just today, I heard on the news about a 17-year-old girl from Liverpool who requires a liver transplant because she had been drinking since she was 12. In the new year, we will be the licensing authority with the power to close down any badly-run premises at a moment's notice. These include off-licences as well as pubs. Much of the trouble stems from younger drinkers who either get the booze from off-licences or persuade older friends or brothers to buy it for them." Sex is also being used to promote sensible drinking amongst youngsters, with posters on pubs and the sides of taxis showing an attractive young woman reinforcing the message that binge-drinking is not attractive.

Insp Ledger said: "Sex does sell, the drinks industry know that when they promote their brands. To get our message across, we need an attractive poster. It is no use just having warning signs in pubs to get across the dangers of excessive drinking, we need to compete with other advertising posters."

He added: "Those who drink too much alcohol often find themselves in situations they would avoid if they were sober.

"In the case of young men, it tends to involve violence, whereas young women take chances regarding safety, making them vulnerable." The launch at Crook, County Durham, came on the day a study by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs found that teenage girls in the UK are now bigger binge drinkers than boys. The UK came third in the teenage "binge drinking" league, behind Ireland and the Netherlands.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2004
Words:590
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