In Brief

Childhood obesity: 22,000 Year Six pupils ‘severely obese’

One in 25 students in England and Wales dangerously overweight

More than 20,000 Year Six pupils in England and Wales are classified as ‘severely obese’, as experts warn that soaring rates of childhood obesity are creating a health timebomb.

Data obtained by local authorities show that 22,646 children - or one in 25 - in their final year of primary education were classified in the highest bracket of obesity by the National Child Measurement Programme in 2016/2017.

The average primary school class size in English state schools in 2016 was 27.1, meaning that there is slightly more than one dangerously overweight pupil per class.

Overall, 4.1% of pupils are severely obese by the end of primary school, compared to just 2.35% of reception pupils, suggesting that some are “gaining weight at a drastic rate as they go through school”, says the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents local councils in England and Wales.

Obesity increases the risk of developing “diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer”, says The Daily Telegraph, and “can also shorten a person’s life by 10 years”, a loss equivalent to lifelong smoking.

The LGA says action must be taken to prevent a generation of dangerously overweight children growing into a “multi-billion-pound ill-health time bomb”.

The body “claims that £600m cuts to council public health grants is preventing work to combat childhood obesity” and urged the Government to reverse the cuts, the Times Educational Supplement reports.

They are also calling for further reforms, such as “councils having a say in how and where the soft drinks levy is spent, better labelling on food and drink products, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools”, Sky News reports.

The LGA also emphasised the need for “targeted intervention” to tackle disproportionately high rates of obesity among children in the most deprived areas, and those from minority ethnic groups.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman defended the Government’s programme for tackling childhood obesity as “among the most comprehensive in the world”.

“However, we have always been very clear that this is the not the final word on obesity, and we have not ruled out further action if the right results are not seen.”

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