Ipswich: Shock figures reveal a 50% rise in number of obese children starting primary school - Experts claim youngsters suffering from ‘child abuse’
- Credit: PA
Soaring numbers of Ipswich children are starting primary school battling obesity, it emerged today.
Shock figures reveal a 50% increase in only four years in the number of reception age pupils who are classed as obese – from 103 in 2007/08 to 150 in 2011/12.
Meanwhile, a total of 347 primary school starters were found to be either obese or overweight in 2011/12 – a 59% increase on the figure of 218 four years earlier.
The revelations last night prompted health campaigners to brandish the figures as evidence of “child abuse” and “neglect”, with one expert condemning “unfit parents” and calling for children to be taken out of their care.
Children are classed as obese if they weigh more than two stone above average levels.
Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “It is neglect. Society needs to step in and say to these parents ‘you are not fit to look after children. We are going to take your children away, slim them down, and sort you out because your household is probably full of awful food’.
“I do sympathise with some of these parents who were not taught domestic science at school and are struggling to pay for good food, but we have to bite the bullet because it is only going to get worse before it gets better.”
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Suffolk County Council was handed responsibility for public health following an NHS reform that came into effect on April 1 this year.
But Mr Fry raised doubts over the council’s ability to improve childhood obesity rates after central government “washed their hands of the mess”.
Dan Poulter, junior health minister and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, called for tougher action to be imposed on parents found guilty of criminal neglect after admitting the figures were a “cause for concern”.
He also urged the county council and headteachers to step up their efforts in tackling the problem.
The figures relating to levels of obesity among pupils in Ipswich – which also showed one in three Year 6 students were either obese or overweight in 2011/12 – were published in the National Child Measurement Programme.
Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “This increase in the recorded number of overweight or obese children in Ipswich primary schools is partly due to an increase in participation rates.
“With more families taking part we are able to capture more of those children in the ‘at risk’ categories.
“However we recognise that there are still a number of children in Ipswich and other areas of the county that are considered overweight or obese.
“We work very closely with the children and their parents to educate and encourage them to live healthy lives.”
Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said children were not active enough at school, insisting better-structured PE lessons were needed.