FOUR in ten North-East secondary school pupils have tried alcohol - the joint highest proportion in England, according to a new report.

New figures published in the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s report, Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England, show a decline in the number of youngsters drinking alcohol in the region.

However, the North-East continues to have one of the highest proportions of children drinking.

The report, which contains results from an annual survey of secondary school pupils in England in years seven to 11, revealed that in 2014:

*44 per cent of North-East schoolchildren had tried alcohol at least once - down from 51 per cent in 2010/11.

*Ten per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds in the region had drunk alcohol in the last week - a decrease from 17 per cent in 2010/11.

Sue Taylor, partnerships manager at Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “It’s encouraging to see more young people in the region choosing not to drink alcohol, however the North-East still has some of the highest rates of children drinking compared to the rest of England.

"These latest figures show that nearly 14,000 children in our region are drinking alcohol on a weekly basis.

“The Chief Medical Officer clearly states that the best advice is for young people to have an alcohol-free childhood. Alcohol makes children and young people vulnerable by encouraging poor decisions which they can later regret. It also exposes them to a range of long-term health risks linked to more than 60 medical conditions, including seven different types of cancer."