SHOCKING new figures revealed that almost one in five children finishing primary school in Swindon are obese.

Data from NHS Digital shows that 19 per cent of Year 6 pupils in the town over the last year were obese – and an additional 15 per cent were classed as overweight.

That means that more than a third of the area’s pupils in their last year of primary school were unhealthily overweight.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for health Brian Ford said: “Swindon has seen a decrease in overweight and obesity in reception year children compared to last year with lower levels than the England average although we recognise that the proportion fluctuates year on year and reducing obesity is an ongoing priority.

“We know that excess weight can increase a person’s chances of developing a range of problems including type 2 diabetes – which can start in childhood – some types of cancer, dementia, psychological disorders and eating disorders and obese children are more likely to be bullied.”

Nine per cent of youngsters in reception – classes full of four-year-olds and five-year-olds – were obese last year.

The obesity figure for Year 6 pupils has risen from the 17 per cent recorded in 2006-07, which is the earliest year with available data, while the overweight stats have stayed the same.

The amount of 10 and 11-year-olds in Swindon considered severely obese – with a BMI in the top one-in-250 for children –is four per cent.

This is the same as the national average and represents a record high across England for the fourth consecutive year.

The overall obesity rate, which includes severe obesity, also hit a record high of 20 per cent in England – and this statistic rises to 34 per cent when overweight children are included.

Councillor Ford said: “The council is working with local partners to tackle excess weight in children and adults.

“This includes a range of programmes such as the Swindon Healthy Schools programme, Swindon Healthy Early Years programme, improving our infrastructure to make walking and cycling easier, and child and family weight management programmes such as Healthy Families and initiatives such as Beat the Street.

“Tackling obesity is a complex issue and it takes time to make a difference across the whole of Swindon.

“We are developing new programmes which aim to take a whole system approach to tackling obesity, as recommended by Public Health England. The national Change4Life campaign offers online advice for parents of younger children and their families.”

Public Health England works out obesity using the 1990 British growth reference chart, a large collection of statistics used to determine a child’s BMI.

It defines a child as obese if their BMI is in the chart’s top 5 per cent, and overweight if they are in the top 15 per cent.

Obesity can lead to heart problems and type 2 diabetes later in life, as well as psychological issues such as low self-esteem and depression.

The data also suggests that children often develop weight problems while at primary school.

Across England, Year 6 children from the most deprived backgrounds were more than twice as likely to be obese than those from the wealthiest areas.