The report from Government’s National Child Measurement Programme in schools for 2010-11 reveals that 22.6 per cent of reception children are overweight or obese, compared to 23.1 per cent in 2009-10 and 22.9 per cent in 2006-07.
However, by Year 6, the number of children who are obese more than doubles. Whereas the proportion of overweight and obese children in Reception is now lower than in 2006-07, the proportion of overweight and obese children in Year 6 is rising.
The figures show that in Reception, the proportion of obese children (9.4%) was lower than in 2006-07 (9.9%). The proportion of overweight and obese children combined (22.6%) was also lower than in 2006-07 (22.9%).
In Year 6, the proportion of obese children (19.0%) was higher than in 2006-07 (17.5%). The proportion of overweight and obese children combined (33.4%) was also higher than in 2006-07 (31.6%).
According to the statistics, boys are more likely to be obese than girls. In reception, 10.1 per cent of boys were obese compared to 8.8 per cent of girls.
Children from Asian backgrounds were also more likely to be obese than any other ethnic group in both Reception and Year 6.
As in previous years, there was a strong relationship between deprivation and obesity, with the risk of becoming obese almost doubling for Reception class children attending schools in deprived areas.
Living in urban areas rather than rural areas also increased the risk of childhood obesity.
Professor Mitch Blair, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said, ‘While the overall increase in child obesity is worrying, the fact obesity has fallen among children going into reception demonstrates the importance and success of early intervention. It's only by health professionals, the government, schools and parents working together that this kind of culture change can take place.
‘But we can't let up. There remains a core of marginalised children who miss out on interventions in school and pre-school settings. We need to communicate more effectively to these groups if we are to make a real dent in overall child obesity levels.’
Tam Fry, Honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation and spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum, said, ‘Slight though it may be, the decrease overweight/obesity rates of reception year children are going in the right direction and nurseries must take some of the credit. One set of good figures however is meaningless unless they can be sustained and, hopefully, the upcoming publication of new guidelines for nursery food will help do just that. Coupled with the fact that parents finally seem to be getting the message to stock healthier food at home, we should have childhood obesity licked by 2020.’