Chubby children may soon be weighed at school under new anti-obesity proposals
Schools may be required to weigh and measure their students annually. Extra support from education body Ofsted would be offered to schools that tip the scales the most, while free gym classes and home visits would also be provided.
It’s estimated that one-in-five children is overweight by the time they finish primary school. The obesity proposals are being studied by Number 10 after ministers visited a groundbreaking anti-obesity project in Amsterdam. Between 2012 and 2015, Amsterdam managed to reduce obesity by 12 percent in all children. In lower socioeconomic households, obesity dropped by 18 percent.
The Dutch program indicates that intervention through the education system played a critical part in the scheme’s success, allowing it to access hard-to-reach children. Chairman of the National Obesity Forum Tam Fry said that getting schools involved is crucial. “If you measure children annually, you have a reasonable chance of identifying the early signs of obesity and intervening,” Fry said. “But I am hopeful that we may see this issue addressed by government.”
Not everyone is supportive of Ofsted’s latest proposal. Disgraced ex-board member of the Office for Students, Toby Young, has slammed the weigh-in policy, stating that parents need to be the ones responsible for their children’s waistlines, not schools.
“Expecting schools to remedy every social problem has to stop,” Young said. “Teachers have enough to do without being expected to compensate for the failure of parents to feed their children a healthy diet.”
Senior Tories are endorsing the proposed policy. Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, who was chairwoman of the Centre for Social Justice’s obesity working group, lending her support. The plan has gained momentum, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats also throwing their support behind such a plan.
“It is really important for schools to get involved and be part of the success of the strategy,” Jenkin said. “Not least we need to know what we’re up against and the only way to do that is by regular weighing and measuring.
“Nobody, and no child, wants to be fat; and we should be doing everything to help children lose weight as long as it is done in a way that doesn’t stigmatize them. There is obviously an issue of resources for schools that needs to be looked at carefully but this is a problem that is killing our children.”
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said that there was a need to involve communities to increase the strategy’s success. “What I saw in Amsterdam was impressive – particularly the way in which they managed to achieve results among groups that have traditionally been hard to reach,” he said.
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