The same amount of alcohol contained in 15 shots of vodka is being drunk by children as young as 11 in one week, according to the latest data.
The NHS Information Centre survey for 2008 found some youngsters were drinking the equivalent of 10 alcopops over a seven-day period. This works out at 14.6 units, the same as seven pints of beer or 15 glasses of wine (125ml).
The poll of around 7,800 11-to-15-year-olds found nearly one in five (18%) had drunk alcohol in the last week. Taken over the whole of the country, this works out at around 550,000 pupils.
And of those, 62% of boys and 57% of girls said they drank an average of more than four units of alcohol a day when consuming alcohol.
The annual Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People survey of pupils in 263 secondary schools in England found around a third (31%) said they had been drinking alcohol in the past month.
Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: ‘Our survey provides valuable insight into the behaviour of young people and shows an apparent connection between their behaviour towards drinking and smoking and that of others in their household.’