Fewer children are starting primary school obese - Government data finds
26/11/2015 - 10:29

The number of children who start primary school obese has fallen to 9.1%, according to the latest data from the National Child Measurement Programme.

The data found that over a fifth (21.9%) of children measured were either overweight or obese, this was lower than in 2013/14 (22.5%) and 2006/07 (22.9%).

However, the number of year six children classed as obese has remained unchanged since 2013/14 at 19.1% and has risen since 2006/07 (17.5%).

Around a third (33.2%) of year six children measured were either overweight or obese, lower than in 2013/14 (33.5%) but higher than in 2006/07 (31.6%).

Jo Nicholas, head of research at Children's Food Trust, said: "These figures are staying stubbornly high from year to year – bringing the government’s forthcoming childhood obesity strategy into even sharper focus.

"Being overweight is not a choice a child makes. The way children eat is the product of what they learn at home, in childcare, at school and in what they see in the wider world around them. Excess weight isn’t children’s fault, but it is very much their problem.”

The prevalence of obese children in year six was double that of reception year children, whilst the prevalence of underweight children was also higher in year 6 (1.4%) than in reception (1%).

Almost two-thirds of year six children (65.3%) were classed as a healthy weight, lower than reception children where over three quarters (77.2%) were of a healthy weight.

Obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas was double that of those living in the least deprived areas - prevalence for reception children in the most deprived areas was 12% compared to just 5.7% in the least deprived areas.

The difference in prevalence between the most and least deprived areas has increased over time, with a 5.5% difference in 2014/15, compared to a 4.6% difference in 2007/08. The equivalent figures for year six were 12% and 8.9% respectively.

Obesity prevalence was also found to be significantly higher in urban areas than in rural areas for both age groups - 9.4% in urban areas, 8% in town areas and 7.2% in village areas for reception children and 19.9%, 16% and 14.8% respectively for year six children.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of British Heart Foundation, said: "Falling rates of obesity in reception age children is promising, but the fact remains that we now have more children leaving primary school overweight or obese and this is simply unacceptable.

"We hope these figures act as a wake up call to the Government as they prepare to release their childhood obesity strategy in the New Year.”

The NCMP was established in 2005/06 and records height and weight measurements of children in reception (aged 4-5 years) and year six (aged 10-11 years) in state-maintained schools in England.

The Programme measured 1,141,859 children attending state-maintained schools in England - approximately 95% of those eligible.