Quarter of school pupils aged four to five are overweight or obese

Almost a quarter of children aged four and five are overweight or obese, data showed yesterday.

The figure of 23 per cent rises to one in three (33 per cent) of children in their final year of primary school, aged 10 to 11.

Yesterday's report, from the NHS Information Centre, found there has been barely any change in childhood obesity rates over the last few years.

Of children in the younger reception year, 14 per cent of boys are overweight and another 11 per cent are obese, while 13 per cent of girls are overweight and nine per cent are obese.

In Year Six, the last year of primary school, 15 per cent of boys and girls are overweight, and 20 per cent of boys are obese alongside 17 per cent of girls.

The data is taken from more than a million children (91 per cent of eligible pupils), as part of the Government's National Child Measurement Programme.

The scheme has been criticised for being voluntary, with research suggesting that some overweight and obese children "opt out" of being weighed and measured, potentially skewing the results.

The report found that children in urban towns and cities were much more likely to be overweight than those living in more rural areas.

The chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, Tim Straughan, said: "This is the fifth year of the programme and participation in the study continues to increase with more than a million children taking part.

"The study suggests that weight problems continue to be far worse for older children than for younger children.

"These statistics suggest that more needs to be done at a younger age to combat obesity within primary education and positively encourage healthy eating and participation in physical activity, to reduce future health implications for these children."

Obesity was more common in some areas, ranging from 8.4 per cent in the South East for children in reception year to 11.6 per cent in London.