A quarter of year 6 pupils are now obese, latest figures reveal

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The proportion of pupils considered obese rises from 14 per cent in reception-age children to 26 per cent in year 6 – with deprived youngsters much more likely to be obese.

New NHS data shows that a “significant increase” in obesity rates of both reception-age children and year 6 pupils in the past year.

The increase – of around 4.5 percentage points between 2019/20 and 2020/21 – is the highest annual rise since the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) began.

The programme’s 2020/21 report (NHS, 2021) found obesity prevalence among four and five-year-olds in reception classes rose from 9.9 per cent in 2019/20 to 14.4 per cent in 2020/21.

In 2006/07 – the earliest year for which comparable data is available for this age group – obesity rates stood at 9.9 per cent.

Among year 6 pupils, obesity prevalence increased from 21 per cent to 25.5 per cent in 2020/21. The earliest comparable figures for this cohort are from 2009/10, when obesity prevalence was 18.7 per cent.

The NCMP measures the height and weight of children in England annually and provides data on the number of children in reception and year 6 who are underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese or severely obese.

The report also shows that obesity prevalence among children living in the most deprived areas was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas.

In reception children, 20.3 per cent in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 7.8 per cent in the least deprived. For year 6, 33.8 per cent in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 14.3 per cent from the least deprived areas.

The report also found:

  • The proportion of children who were a healthy weight dropped year-on-year among reception children (71.3 per cent from 76.1 per cent) and year 6 pupils (57.8 per cent from 63.4 per cent).
  • The proportion of all children who were either overweight or obese was 27.7 per cent in reception and 40.9 per cent in year 6.
  • In both age groups, obesity prevalence was higher for boys than for girls although the gap is much more significant for year 6 pupils (29.2 per cent of boys are obese compared to 21.7 per cent of girls).

NHS Digital: National Child Measurement Programme, England 2020/21 school year, November 2021: https://bit.ly/3nnvVMC

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