Health workers were drafted into primary schools after shocking new evidence emerged about the depth of Essex’s binge-drinking culture.

Staff from NHS North East Essex primary care trust visited schools after a survey found 14 per cent of children had been drunk by the age of 11.

It also found a third of 15-year-olds had been drunk.

Donna Telfer, assistant director of public health, said: “The results show the number of younger people consuming alcohol is a lot higher than we would like it to be.

“A glass of wine at Christmas with parents is one thing, but these results suggest the issue goes deeper than that.”

Health trusts will try to drive home the message to youngsters about the dangers of binge drinking.

Advisers will be visiting primary and secondary schools in Colchester and Tendring to educate pupils, parents and teachers.

The schools involved include St Lawrence Primary School, in Rowhedge, Home Farm Primary School, in Lexden, Colchester, and Coppins Green Junior School, in Clacton.

Mo Oliver, headteacher at Home Farm Primary School, said: “They are very aware of alcohol at this age. They see the part alcohol plays in their parents’ relaxation and leisure time.

“I think we have to start Education much earlier now and, as a school, part of our core purpose is to help children make the right choices and decisions.”

In the past year, the primary care trust has also appointed school liaison workers, an alcohol nurse specialist and has teamed up with police, the probation service and fire service to fight binge drinking.

Ms Telfer added: “It’s time we started to rethink our drinking habits and the impacts excessive drinking has on ourselves and our community.”

The survey was carried out by the Schools Health Education Unit.

An alcohol charity said it supported the move.

Therese Lyras, a spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern, said: “The problems we are seeing with young people nowadays weren’t there in the past.

“In general, people weren’t drinking in such a manner as they are now or drinking so much in one session.

“The earlier they start the more likely it is they will encounter problems from their drinking. We want to encourage youngsters to have a healthier attitude to alcohol.”