Schools across Scotland have been urged to consider following a Fife school’s lead by banning sugary drinks altogether.
Senior staff at Kirkcaldy High School made the bold and potentially controversial decision back in October 2013 to curb consumption of fizzy juice and energy drinks to improve pupil health and wellbeing.
The school’s rector, Derek Allan, insists the move has been a success others would see the benefit of following.
Chancellor George Osborne announced a sugar tax on fizzy drinks in his Budget last week.
Mr Allan said he appreciated that the ban was not popular with all pupils and that it has been difficult to monitor, but said he was thoroughly in favour of the sugar tax dubbed the ‘Irn Bru Tax’ by some.
He said: “The high sugar content is linked to tooth decay, obesity, diabetes and hyperactivity, and high caffeine intake is also known to be a potential harm to young people’s health.
“It is the right thing to do and it shows our school’s commitment to health and wellbeing.”
As well as the ban on sugary drinks consumption in school, parents and carers were asked to refrain from sending children to school with a packed lunch containing a can or bottle of any sugary soft drinks.
While Mr Allan said that he was not naive enough to think no sugary drinks are ever smuggled into the school, he is sure that the symbolic stance Kirkcaldy High had taken had seen a positive impact over time.
“It has made our young people think more about sugar intake, and that can only be a good thing,” he added.
The school’s pioneering stance has once more come under a national spotlight at the Children in Scotland Food Matters conference in Edinburgh, with Kirkcaldy High’s achievement in tackling childhood obesity and diabetes highlighted.
Many of the delegates attending the conference, including Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood, described the school’s sugar ban as a valuable and forward-thinking initiative and agreed it would go a long way towards tackling the massive problem faced by Scotland in terms of obesity and other diet related conditions.
Pupils from Kirkcaldy High also offered their own input at the conference, sharing their experiences with health professionals and other interested parties.
Vicky Mitchell, principal teacher of health and wellbeing, said: “It was great to see the pupils being involved in the debate and asked for their thoughts.
“Choosing to study health and food technology, the girls already have a keen interest in health, nutrition and food and seeing them use this knowledge was excellent.”
Kirkcaldy High School is known for its enlightened and proactive approaches to teenage health, and was awarded the Cosla Excellence Award in 2014 for ‘Reducing Inequalities and Improving Health’.