A top UK girls' private school is teaching students to drink responsibly, while exploring the culture and history of wine, teachers claim.
Malvern St James School in Worcestershire, which charges up to £9000 a term, runs regular wine appreciation evenings.
The school, widely considered one of Britain’s best, would not comment on UK chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson’s recent pronouncement that children under 15 should not taste alcohol under any circumstances.
However the school’s critical thinking teacher Rachel Huntley, who runs the twice-termly course, confirmed the popular wine club, open to girls aged 16 and over, would continue to meet as usual.
‘Certainly we have not had any instances of binge-drinking at the school, and the girls are very aware of the news stories and can see what happens outside the school,’ she said.
‘My personal view is that children who are introduced young, in a permissive atmosphere where there might be spirits, may form bad habits.
‘But if you introduce them age 16 to wine in a controlled environment, this helps move them away from drinking Bacardi Breezers or fruit juices loaded with neat alcohol.’
Huntley said after pouring a taste for up to 24 participants, there is usually a quarter of a bottle left.
‘We do not teach them that the purpose of drinking is to get drunk,’ she said.
‘It’s about enjoying a meal together and having a discussion. The tasting itself is always very relaxed – we encourage the students to express their own views, and then we might read out one of the flowery, imaginative comments by the wine critics’.
According to a study by Unicef’s Innocenti Research Centre, just under 31% of UK cihldren aged 11-15 claim to have been drunk at least twice.
While the legal drinking age in the UK is 18, it is legal for 15-17-year olds to drink if supervised.
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Written by Maggie Rosen