A few weeks ago I wrote in my Westminster Life column about the need to use the proceeds of the “sugar tax” in the best way possible to help children and young people get fitter and lead more active lives and this week the Government has listened and acted - by promising to invest £415 million to transform school facilities and encourage healthier lifestyles.
Schools can really help our children get a healthy start in life from exercise and sport, and also from knowing what a healthy diet means. It’s not only good for them while they’re in education, but the health and well being benefits can last a lifetime.
Ministers have taken some stick over the tax from libertarian purists but their heart is in the right place and with a deteriorating childhood obesity crisis, needs must.
Forty years ago as a child, I’d disappear for hours on end of a Saturday and Sunday to the park, the tadpole ponds, the boating lake or woods and my parents would think nothing of it. This was the era before iPads, x boxes, mobile phones or laptops! Outdoor play, camping and competitive sport was part of our lives.
Not so much today. Society is more sedentary and focused on indoors activities.
Government does has a role to play however.
That’s why they’re investing new monies in facilities to support sports, after school activities and promoting healthy eating, so we can secure the future health of our young people.
Parents, guardians and teachers need to work together to make sure kids have all the opportunities possible to develop a love of outdoor activity and team sports.
The money – from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy – will be available to schools in the 2018/19 financial year and more details on how the fund will be distributed will be published later this year.
The Healthy Pupils Capital Programme will build on the Government’s plans for schools to provide a longer school day by changing the focus of the scheme to provide new facilities or improve existing ones to make it easier for a range of extra-curricular activities to be provided.
Alongside the funding for the PE and Sport Premium, Breakfast Clubs and Universal Infant Free School Meals, it represents over £1.3 billion investment in 2018/19 to help young people live healthier lifestyles.
Over the next few months, I will be visiting a number of local schools in the Peterborough constituency and encouraging their leadership teams to bid for this funding so that as many local children get the best start in life.