Saturday, 8 June 2013


A message from Peter Westwood - Deputy Headmaster (Pastoral) at Bishops (Article adapted for Blog)

Underage Drinking

A few thoughts;
1. Drinking alcohol under the age of 18 is illegal and any minor who does drink or any adult who provides alcohol to minors is involved in criminal behaviour. It is an entirely reasonable and sensible law which both scientific research and common sense support. I should be able to leave it here, and as a result of the above, rest assured that all adults will do all they can to ensure that they, and the children they love, obey the law. Sadly, it would seem that some in our communities create unsafe spaces for our boys (and girls) either through criminal behaviour or “criminal” negligence.
I would appeal to you all that if you host a group of young people you do all that you can to ensure the space is safe. This includes taking an active and direct interest in what is happening throughout the time of the gathering. Let your son know this is going to happen ahead of the time. If you are concerned about a boy who is visiting your home then talk directly to that boy and let him know your expectations of him.
If your son is asking to go to someone else’s house I encourage you to contact those parents and check that they will be present and that they will do their best to ensure that no alcohol will be consumed. If you know the space is not safe or do not feel reassured on making the call then do not let your son go. Good parents are willing to be unpopular (often, if necessary – but hopefully only now and then).
Can I encourage you to make the decision that you will do all that you can to ensure your son obeys the law? It is a lie that “Everyone is doing it!”. Most parents want their sons to obey the law and will do what they can to ensure this.
2. Please be aware of the danger of alcohol to your son at his stage of emotional, mental and physical development. The research is clear that alcohol and teenagers (in fact into the early 20’s) are a dangerous combination. Their brain is not ready for alcohol – not physically nor emotionally. Apart from all the obvious dangers which result from alcohol use by young people (binge drinking, accidents, comas, unprotected sex, rape, fighting, reduced academic ability.....) there is evidence that the chances of a boy forming some sort of alcohol dependency rises alarmingly if he start drinking in his early teens (the NIAAA reports a figure of four times more likely). Any caring parent will seek to protect their child.
3. In the Bishops Partnership agreement the parent agrees to “educate my son about alcohol with respect to the law, dangers, social responsibility and parental expectations.” The school plays its part but it is first and foremost the responsibility of a parent to do this. Can I encourage you not to leave this to chance? It is too important an issue. You must take responsibility for your son and if another parent will not and you know this then do not let your son go to that home. 

If you are aware of a family who is either not being responsible on a regular basis or who actively breaks the law and gives/sells alcohol to minors then please feel free to let the relevant persons know.

In the past people knew intuitively that it was not right for teenagers to drink alcohol. Scientific research over the last few decades has only reinforced this view. We need the community to stand together to keep our boys and girls safe from this drug as they develop into men and women.

Educating your children is a partnership between parents and school but on issues like this wise parenting is crucial, especially if you have a son who is attracted to alcohol use or is not good at standing up to peer pressure or is not wise about the friends he chooses (or all of the above!). I wish you all the best in your parenting. No-one said it would be easy...