How the soft drinks tax is benefiting schools 

The soft drinks industry levy came into force in April last year. The money generated from the tax is intended to help fund pupil health and wellbeing initiatives in schools. EdExec looks at some of the schools that have benefited so far

Part of the government’s initiative to tackle childhood obesity, the soft drinks industry levy – introduced in April 2018 – was designed to encourage manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their drinks. Producers were given two years to prepare for the implementation of the tax – during which time many reduced their levels of sugar to avoid paying it. However, more than 450 traders registered to pay the levy.

The annual Soft Drinks Industry Levy bulletin, published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in November 2018, revealed that soft drinks manufacturers and traders had paid an extra £153.8 million in tax since April 2018 – with the funds raised destined for a number of programmes to support pupil health and wellbeing, including:

  • funding physical education activities in primary schools;
  • funding the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund; and
  • providing a funding boost for breakfast clubs in more than 1,700 schools.

“[The] figures show the positive impact the soft drinks levy is having by raising millions of pounds for sports facilities and healthier eating in schools, as well as encouraging manufacturers to cut sugar in over half the drinks found in UK stores,” says Robert Jenrick, the exchequer secretary to the treasury.

“Helping our next generation to have a healthy and active childhood is a priority for us, and I’m pleased to see the industry is playing its part,” he adds.

So, what have schools been spending the money on?

Sports pavilion
Following a successful bid, Blackhorse Primary School, in Emerson’s Green, Bristol, has received a £40,000 grant from the sugar tax to build a sports pavilion.

Speaking to Emersons Green Voice, headteacher Simon Botten said, “It will give our physical education and outdoor education programmes a real boost. Our vision is to create something which not only benefits our school, but the whole community.”

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New running track
Earlier this year Olympian Sally Gunnell opened thenew running trackat St Peter’s CE Primary School, in Henfield, West Sussex – which was built with funding from the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund.

Headteacher Denise Maurice says students love going out for a daily run or walk around the 300m track. “Running and walking around the track gives the children a brain break, which makes them more alert in the classroom, as well as improving their physical fitness. All the children had the opportunity to name the track and the school council voted on the name they liked the best – which was ‘St Peter’s Metres’,” she told the West Sussex County Times.

Playground equipment
Last year Willowdown Primary School, in Bridgwater, Somerset, unveiled new playground equipment – courtesy of the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund. The balance trail is designed to increase children’s mobility while making playtime fun.

“I am absolutely delighted with this play equipment.It adds some new play experiences to our beautiful school grounds and will help encourage risky play for all our pupils,” Ro Roberts, the school’s headteacher, explained to the Bridgwater Mercury.

Elevated playground – the ‘play deck’
St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, secured a grant through the sugar tax to fund the building of an elevated playground.

Headteacher Frances Wygladala said the school’s year six pupils had one of the highest rates of obesity in Blackpool, so it was vital children had more space to exercise in. “Some children do very little physical exercise at home, as they would rather play on their computers or games consoles. We need to get them active. They are seriously disadvantaged and the play deck will give more space for them to run,” she told The Gazette.

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