A seasonal drink?

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
Elgin Academy invited a thousand parents to take part in an alcohol awareness evening pointing out the perils. Only 14 turned up to hear a litany of cancer and chronic illness warnings - but the event was a success with pupils

it was both hilarious and sobering - a parents' evening where pupils lectured mums and dads on the evils of drink. And there was even a bar with 13-year-olds serving non-alcoholic cocktails with names like Dracula's Draught and Jamaica Days.

With just days to go before Christmas, Elgin Academy took the bold step of inviting 1,000 parents into school for an Alcohol Information Evening.

Second year pupils recently had their own interactive workshop sessions on alcohol awareness as part of personal and social education.

So it was decided to get the message across to parents, with the teenagers turning teacher.

"It's about educating everybody in the community, not just the children,"

says principal teacher of guidance, Susan Taylor.

There were four workshops and parents spent 15 minutes visiting each. They focused on how alcohol affects the body, how behaviour becomes disinhibited, with a quiz on alcohol awareness and a chance to wear "beer goggles" to try to walk in a straight line.

Stephanie Grieve, 13, and her classmates were demonstrating the goggles and glasses which reproduce the effect that alcohol has on your vision.

"You could end up knocking over a child crossing the road or something like that, because you are too drunk to even see," says Stephanie.

The pupils were also telling parents what they had learned about how alcohol affects your body: "It affects your thinking first, then your speaking, then movement, hearing, sight and breathing," explains Hollie Simpson, 13.

Chloe Davidson and Rachel Royan have been demonstrating the short and long-term effects of drinking on the body, using a whiteboard with drawings of male and female bodies to pinpoint potential problem areas. They've even hit on an incentive scheme of offering sweets to parents who contribute in class.

"I knew some of the effects but I didn't know you could get raped because you don't know what you're doing," says Rachel.

What they have learned has clearly had a profound effect on them. "It's made me think I am never going to drink - maybe now and again, but not heavy drinking," says Chloe.

Obviously some pupils proved more talented than others at telling the good citizens of Elgin exactly what could happen if they drank to excess over a prolonged period.

A natural was 13-year-old Caroline Berkeley, who bluntly warned the men that apart from the litany of cancers and chronic illnesses, another possible side-effect was that their genitals would shrink.

The parents took it all on the chin - even agreeing to role-play drunks meandering home after a night's drinking. Lurching towards each other, throwing up noisily and finding each other increasingly attractive as the drink kicked in.

The evening was good humoured and entertaining, with regular bursts of noisy laughter. But the underlying message was full-strength and definitely fortified by having young children deliver it.

What was even more astonishing was the number of parents who supported the widely publicised event - just 14 - vastly outnumbered by 18 pupils, teachers, health promotions staff and school nurses.

Theories abounded for the poor turnout. The weather or the busy time of year perhaps?

And there was disappointment that so few were there to appreciate the children's efforts. One comedian even suggested they offer bottles for the prize draw next year.

The parents are fulsome in their praise when they congregate in the "bar"

afterwards, and reflective about what they've heard.

"Quite often you think drugs are the main problem with teenagers, but this made you think more about alcohol," says Gillian Ross.

School nurse Mark Swinglehurst says later: "I think they are enjoying it.

And I think they are quite surprised at the amount of work the children have put in, and by their knowledge of the subject."

Second-year pupil Caroline Berkeley thinks the event has been well worthwhile.

She says: "Most kids haven't been drunk and they find it interesting to do these projects, because they find out lots of new things. And even though there weren't so many people there, those that came got a lot out of it and really contributed well."

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