Energy drinks blamed for poor discipline at schools

They might give you wings, but caffeine and sugar in drinks cause 'mood swings' in students, says critic

Red Bull
(Image credit: 2013 AFP)

IT MAY give you wings but Red Bull is giving the teaching profession a headache and calls are growing for the energy drink to be banned from British schools.

Red Bull (whose company slogan is 'Red Bull Gives You Wings') and Lucozade are two of the energy drinks that government adviser John Vincent alleges are responsible for a decline in discipline. Vincent, co-founder of the Leon chain of restaurants, wrote the School Food Plan for the education secretary Michael Gove, and warns: "The short-term high is causing disruption to children's behaviour... [and] our objective is to stop children drinking them."

A 500ml can of Red Bull contains approximately 13 teaspoons of sugar and is equivalent in caffeine levels to two cups of coffee. Though there is a high soon after consumption, drinkers later get hit by a low, and these mood swings are creating problems in the classroom with some schools already banning them from their premises.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told The Guardian that headteachers are increasingly concerned. "Some secondary school-age children come into school having not had a proper breakfast and having started the day with one of these energy drinks," he explained.

"They are very hyperactive, they can't sit still and they can't concentrate. That can lead to disciplinary problems in the classroom. At the end of the day [when the high has worn off] they are very fractious, very tired and unable to concentrate for that reason."

Aggressive marketing campaigns promote the energy drinks as beneficial for sport, and Vincent claims pupils and their parents are unaware of their downside. Consequently he wants a curb on their consumption, saying: "As part of the School Food Plan, we are trying to bring manufacturers and headteachers and shops together to solve the problem. If that doesn't work, we can maybe investigate legal options."

Brian Lightman agrees that legislation might be needed in the future. "The government needs to consider what action could be taken," he said. "Sometimes outright bans can have the opposite effect but it should be made extremely difficult for young people to have access to these drinks."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.