News / Children's Food Campaign

Government reduces its promised funding for health and well-being initiatives in schools

The end of the school term has been marked by the disappointing double-loss of promised Government funding for health and wellbeing initiatives in schools. The Healthy Pupils Capital Fund budget has been cut by £315 million - ie. a 3/4 reduction. And the Government has confirmed it will no longer be going ahead with the offer of free breakfasts to all primary school children, as it had originally promised in its General Election manifesto.


Responding to the news of the changes to the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund and to the free school breakfasts announcement, Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of Children’s Food Campaign, said:

“The Government’s switch of a significant chunk of the funding promised for healthy lifestyle activities in schools, to fill a gap in the general schools budget, is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It also makes no sense when childhood obesity rates are still near record highs, and Councils and charities are not in a financial position to step in and provide alternative nutrition and fitness activities.”

“All money raised from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy should be ring-fenced for supporting initiatives which improve children’s health and the environment they grow up in. The Levy is a major success story, with many companies pledging to reduce the sugar content in their drinks before the tax’s official introduction in 2018. But that also means less money will be raised. Rather than fund the shortfall another way, it is disappointing that the Government is reducing the total amount promised on supporting pupils to be healthy."

“The Government’s renewed commitment to free school meals for all 4-7 year olds is welcome. But we are very concerned about the overall direction of Government policy and actions on school food and pupil well-being.”

“The Department for Education has been almost totally silent on how it will meet the commitments it made within the Childhood Obesity Plan. Likewise there has been no progress on monitoring and evaluating the new School Food Standards or on some of the other measures set out in the School Food Plan. And today we have heard that there will be no new additional money for free breakfasts for primary school children, despite the Conservative Party’s manifesto suggesting there would be.”

“With the one year anniversary of the Childhood Obesity Plan fast approaching, it is time for Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, to ensure that the Department steps up its game.”



1) Expected revenue from the Levy

Initial Government estimates on revenue from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy was that this would be £520 million in the first year.The OBR reported that this revenue was likely to decrease due to reformulation and the promotion of lower sugar alternatives.

In the 2017 Spring Budget, Phillip Hammond announced that due to action already taken by the soft drinks industry to reformulate, the expected revenue from the tax had reduced. The OBR now estimate that the levy will raise around £380 million a year from 2018. However, the Chancellor confirmed that the Department for Education would receive the full £1 billion funding that had originally been expected from the levy in this Parliament.

2) What the Levy revenue was promised to be spent on

In March 2017, the Commons Select Committee report Childhood obesity: Follow up included correspondence with the then Public Health Minister which confirmed how the proceeds of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy would be spent:

• £160 million per year for primary schools for the primary PE and sports premium from September 2017;

• £10 million per year to expand breakfast clubs in up to 1,600 schools from September 2017, providing more children with a healthy start to their school day (£6m in Year 1, £10m in Year 2 and £10m in Year 3);

• £415 million through a new Healthy Pupils Capital Programme, to help pupils benefit from healthier, more active lifestyles. Primary, secondary and sixth form colleges will be able to use the funding to pay for facilities to support PE, after school activities and healthy eating. The money will be available to schools in the 2018/19 financial year: further details on the allocation formula, spending guidance and bidding criteria will be provided by the Department for Education in the summer.


3) The changes announced by the Government in July 2017

"Efficiencies and savings across our [Department for Education] capital budget can release £420 million. The majority of this will be from healthy pupils capital funding - from which we will make savings of £315 million. This reflects reductions in forecast revenue from the soft drinks industry levy. Every pound of England’s share of spending from the levy will continue to be invested in improving child health, including £100 million in 2018-19 for healthy pupils capital."

NB the £160m a year for primary school sports, and the £10m a year for breakfast clubs, remains unaffected by this announcement.

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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