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Concern over pupils putting on weight
8:00pm Sunday 20th January 2013 in News
CHILDREN as young as four are piling on the pounds with levels of obesity in Swindon rising above the national average.
Weight problems among reception and Year 6 pupils have been revealed in official figures amid national concern over a lack of sport at primary schools.
The latest data shows there was an increase in obese reception children from 8.6 per cent between 2010 and 2011 to 9.9 per cent between 2011 and 2012.
In Year 6, the number increased over the same period from 17.3 per cent to 19.2 per cent. The number of overweight children also increased in both school years.
The head of UK Sport warned last week that thousands of children were unable to throw a ball, jump or run due to a lack of specialist PE teachers in primary schools.
Baroness Campbell of Loughborough said pupils had become “physically illiterate” and could “hardly move” by the time they started secondary education.
Sarah Newman, a Cambridge weight plan consultant, has been working with North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson to tackle obesity in Swindon.
“Obesity among children is a growing problem and we need to educate parents and encourage them not to pass on unhealthy eating habits,” she said.
“It’s difficult for parents because children are not as free to go out and play like they used to be and they end up at home playing computer games. Another problem is convenience food.”
Mr Tomlinson addressed the problem in last week’s Spectator magazine, arguing that modern housing estates left little space for children to take part in outdoor activities.
“Swindon is full of primary and secondary schools with halls and excellent sports facilities, yet after school they are locked away behind fences and hire charges,” he wrote. “These need to be opened to local groups and residents, so kids can make best use of the facilities on their doorsteps.
“In concrete jungles, this is more important than ever and I have a radical suggestion for how this could be paid for. Local authorities should merge their youth service with their leisure services.
“We should take the money from the empty old-fashioned youth clubs and give it to the leisure service to reach out into local school facilities. It would pay for things that young people actually want to do, be it football sessions or street dance lessons.
“You would then have the trained youth workers parked up to provide the special support if needed. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. The Friday night ice-skating disco targeted at Swindon teenagers regularly attracts 600 young people.”
The obesity data was included in a report put before the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Coun Nick Martin, the panel’s vice-chairman, said: “Primary school teachers have been more focussed on academic results than outdoor exercise and it is only when youngsters get to secondary school that they get the opportunity to do more outdoor games.
“A lot of the primary schools have outdoor sports pitches which are surrounded by huge fences.
“It would be better to put the fences around the schools and playgrounds and allow youngsters in a given area to use the playing fields, which would include the weekends.
“This is something I am looking at for the future through bringing a resolution to the council.”
Swindon Council is addressing the problem through its healthy weight strategy involving schools and health services and through the Swindon’s Children’s Trust Board.