A THIRD of final year primary school children are overweight or obese, figures suggest.
Last year 33.9% of year six pupils, aged 10 or 11, weighed more than they should - a slight increase from 33.4% the previous year.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said year six pupils in urban areas were more likely to be obese than those who live in towns and suburbs.
The percentage of children in reception who were overweight or obese was 22.6% in 2011/12, the same as the previous year, the figures from the National Child Measurement Programme show.
The programme, which checks more than one million children in England, measures the height and weight of children in reception, who are generally aged four and five, and Year 6 pupils.
The highest prevalence of overweight and obese children in reception was recorded in the north east of England. London recorded the highest rates in Year 6 pupils.
Levels of obesity were highest among black children and lowest among those of Chinese descent.
Children who live in areas of high deprivation were also more likely to be obese, the report adds.
HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “The figures show that the proportion of Year 6 children who are either overweight or obese appears to be still increasing slightly.
“This differs from the picture for reception-year children, for whom prevalence of obesity remains level.
“The National Child Measurement Programme measures more than one million children and is the most robust snapshot of obesity levels among children in England.”
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry added that a new campaign to encourage healthy eating is to be launched by the Government in the new year.
She said: “Being overweight can do serious damage to our health so we must reduce levels in children to give them the best start in life.
“That is why we are already taking action to encourage families to eat healthily and get active.”
Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow public health minister, added: “These figures show children in year six paying the cost of this Government’s total lack of interest in this important issue. The Government is stuck in the crisis zone, and yet all they have planned is more half-baked corporate responsibility schemes. We’re seeing dinner ladies axed in their thousands, healthy school meals on their way out, and the Government has even scrapped its public health committee.
“Action on obesity needs to include local authorities using their powers to control the numbers of fast-food shops, particularly around schools. We must also see much more work to maintain nutritional standards, and to educate young people about nutrition and cooking basic foods.”
Graham Rowan, chairman of the Obesity Management Association, said: “Today’s report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre is further confirmation that obesity is continuing to rise at an alarming rate.
“It is vital to take action now to work with children and parents to educate and support them to change behaviour - 80% of obese children go on to become obese adults, this is a ticking time bomb.”
Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The sad fact is that a third of 10 and 11 year olds are now overweight or obese. Unfortunately this is not just puppy fat that will be left behind as they grow up - we know that obese children are more likely to become obese adults.
“Excess weight carries severe risks for future heart health and overweight people are more at risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
“What we learn about food and activity at a young age can often help to shape our lifestyle as adults. Teaching kids about a balanced diet and encouraging them to stay active is the best way to help them maintain a healthy weight and it might just safeguard their hearts in the future.”