Just under one in ten children in England are obese by the time they begin primary school.

The same NHS figures which highlight this statistic (9.1 per cent) among reception age pupils also pinpoints a stark rise in the issue by the end of primary school. By the time 11-year-olds are ready to move on to secondary school, 19.1 per cent are classed as obese and about a third – 33.2 per cent – are either overweight or obese.

Those figures are clearly a cause for concern. As Public Health England notes, these children are also more likely to miss classes as a result of being ill and suffer from ‘health related limitations’ – with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, sleep problems and mental health disorders all related to obesity.

So, what can be done to tackle a problem on this scale?

Schools

The fact that obesity rises among children during their days at primary school suggests that this is a natural first port of call. Schools need to be setting their children up for an active and healthy lifestyle – showing them the benefits of exercise and the right diet through science, cookery and, of course, physical education.

Many schools do this already, of course, but it’s clear that they need support to do it better. That means better resources – help with the equipment to be able to deliver cookery lessons properly on the right scale or a batch of new PE equipment from Davies Sports.

It also means specialist expertise. More than a quarter of primary school teachers feel unqualified to teach PE – they are crying out for a little assistance to deliver active lessons in a fun and rewarding way. Expert sports coaches need to be made available to either train teachers or deliver more sessions themselves.

Around the home

The simple fact is that schools can’t do it all. Parents and families have to take their share of responsibility for fostering a healthy lifestyle for their child with the right balance of meals and enough physical activity. Children are said to spend an average of 17 hours a week in front of a screen – more than double the amount of time they spend playing outside. Children need to be encouraged to put down their phones and games controllers a little bit more if they are to avoid falling into the obesity trap.

Government

The Government can also do its bit and step in to legislate. It’s clearly not easy – if there were a silver bullet it would have been fired by now – but there are things that can be done to help. The latest idea being trialled is a ‘sugar tax’ on the soft drinks industry, which aims to wean children off the sugary drinks that they enjoy. It has been controversial and has plenty of critics, so close attention will need to be paid to whether this is the right approach or if, alone, it is enough to deal with the scale of the problem.

Sports clubs

Finally, there is a role for sports clubs across the country. These are in constant need of new recruits to stay alive, so reaching out to encourage kids at the earliest possible age is crucial to them as well as the children who need help to stay active. These are the organisations that can, for example, provide the training and support for teachers. Bigger clubs – Football League clubs, rugby and cricket teams, say – can also dish out free or cut price tickets and throw open days to do their bit to foster a love of sport early on. Young fans are likely to want to ‘give it a go’ themselves, after all.

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One Comment

  1. F.M says:

    How about the food industry taking some responsibility? There’s no mention of that in the above.
    Cereal aimed at children, snacks, drinks etc. The ‘ no added sugar’ farce. Children should be eating nourishing food. Healthy food, snacks, drinks at reasonable prices.
    It’s also up to parents to limit treats such as sweets, crisps, fast food, drinks and get their offsping exercising, but if parents have no common sense, nor interest in such matters then what else can be done.
    School can teach, advise, but children cannot dictate to their parents about how they’re reared.

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