Evolve Managing Director John Bishop has expressed concern at claims that funding from the soft drinks levy may not be used to boost pupils’ physical activity, as intended.
In February, the Government announced that the £415m levy pot imposed on soft drinks manufacturers would be invested in facilities to support sports, after-school activities and promote healthy eating, as part of a healthy pupils capital programme.
But the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has now warned that schools will use this supposedly ring-fenced funding to cover staff shortages and plug other gaps in provision as a result of the national funding formula.
I share the concerns of Izzi Seccombe, Chair of LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.
Cuts to school budgets have meant that many schools have been forced to dismantle essential support programmes that have enabled their vulnerable pupils to access learning and the curriculum.
I fear that some schools will simply allocate this additional funding to existing school expenditure to prevent further losses, a strategy that has been seen with pupil premium and previous sports premium funding.
A net gain in funding, alongside greater accountability and support for school leaders, is needed to ensure that sugar tax investment delivers intended outcomes that improve the health and wellbeing of pupils and enhance provision. Otherwise, we are simply using short term funding from soft drinks manufacturers to maintain staffing levels, learning provision and the status quo.
Schools need an effective funding strategy in place for when the soft drinks manufacturers help to address rising levels of obesity by reducing the sugar content in their products, as originally anticipated, and we can no longer rely on them to fund our education system.