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Teachers call for energy drink 'exclusion zones'

There is 'no place' for energy drinks in schools, says NASUWT teaching union

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There is 'no place' for energy drinks in schools, says NASUWT teaching union

A teachers' union has called for the government to pilot "exclusion zones" around schools in which energy drinks could not be sold to children under 16.

Energy drinks can contain as much as caffeine as three cups of coffee, and there are concerns they disrupt student’s concentration and sleep, with knock-on effects on behaviour.

Darren Northcott, national official for education at the NASUWT teaching union, told MPs this week that he felt that exclusion zones around schools should be piloted.

"There is really no place for these drinks in schools," Mr Northcott told the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

He added: "There are some schools in the system which have taken the position that they won’t allow these drinks in schools. They certainly won’t sell them but they won’t permit pupils to bring them on site.

"That seems to be having some positive implications in those particular schools. It has buy-in from the students themselves because the education work is good and buy-in from parents.

“It seems as though a system where schools prohibit consumption of these drinks on site is feasible and in terms of what we’ve heard about potential impacts on children’s health and wellbeing, is an approach we think should be adopted across the whole system."

There would "obviously" still be ways in which children could get energy drinks from outside that exclusion zone, he said.

But he felt the zones, accompanied by an effective education programme for students and their parents, could help exert downward pressure on the "alarming" levels of consumption.

The committee also heard from Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatricians, who said the drinks were harmful to young people.

He said: “There’s no evidence that caffeine is necessary or useful for children and young people, and there’s significant evidence of harms.

"These harms particularly relate to the stimulant elements of caffeine, its effects on sleep and potential effects on mental health, particularly anxiety.”

Oliver Strudwick, public affairs manager of the British Soft Drink Association, also gave evidence to the committee, saying the association supported voluntary action taken by retailers to ban sales of energy drinks to under 16s.

He said the association accepted there was a risk or potential risk to children from the drinks.

“Our members do not promote or advertise to children under 16, and we are committed to working with retailers to the responsible sale of energy drinks,” Mr Strudwick said.

Earlier this year, the chef Jamie Oliver called for a ban on under 16s buying the drinks – and several supermarkets have already signed up to a voluntary ban on selling the drinks to young people.

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