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Spending the Sugar Levy

Funds from the Sugar Levy won’t solve our children’s obesity problems if we fail to use the money effectively, warns Andy Reed

by Andy Reed | Published in Sports Management May Jun 2017 issue 131
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
We’re about to waste the opportunity of a lifetime, through lack of focus / View Apart / shutterstock
We’re about to waste the opportunity of a lifetime, through lack of focus/ View Apart / shutterstock

When the government first announced its Sugar Levy proposal, I gave it the thumbs up, but wondered if it would survive the legislative path through Parliament unscathed. There was certainly no lack of ‘noise’ surrounding the issue at the time but generally the policy has remained intact and the promised money (£415m) will soon be arriving to be spent on school sport and physical education.

Anything that gets the sugar lobby screaming is good enough for me. However, the main problem has been the fractured nature of the debate around the health and wellbeing of our children. We know complex issues cannot be dealt with through single policy solutions, yet still across our sector it’s often suggested that the solution is yet another programme. We’re constantly locked into debates about what outcomes will be delivered through sport, physical education and physical activity.

AN Ineffective approach
The Sugar Levy will enable the doubling of the PE and Sport Premium, so those of us who campaigned against the £160m cut to School Sports Partnerships back in 2010 should be excited. But I can’t summon this excitement because I have been underwhelmed by the approach taken to spending what is a significant investment into schools and the health of our children.

Put simply, I don’t think that distributing monies at £9,500 per school will lead to the most effective use of the investment. I’ve seen many examples of good practice during the CSP (County Sports Partnership) Appraisal – usually where schools work in partnership to invest in the long term sustainability of PE within the school. It’s not a case of individual schools not using the money sensibly – but the system of distribution through individual schools simply won’t achieve the results we need.

I believe the solution is giving much clearer guidance on outcome and targets, and enabling greater cooperation across the partnerships at local level. Not the rebirth of the old School Sport Partnership system, of course, but something that builds on the best of the old with some fresh new thinking.

Sweet sorrow
I genuinely fear we’ll look back on this time in a decade and wonder how on earth we managed to waste such an opportunity. An injection of £320m into school sport and PE should really be a time for celebration.

In addition to the increased Sugar Levy funding, we now have funds from Sport England that are targeted at younger children – £191m going to children and families, including the £40m Families Fund.

I don’t disagree with any of these individual strands of policy and believe that, overall, funding will help in places. But until we adopt a genuine whole systems approach to looking after the health and wellbeing of our young people, then most of what we do will be a sticking plaster over the problems which cause them in the first place.

Andy Reed is a former MP for Loughborough and the founder of Sports Think Tank.

sportsthinktank.com

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