Teachers 'should be able to tackle obesity'

16:36 Mon 24th May 2010 |

Teachers should play a central role in maintaining children’s health, one expert has advised school workers.

According to the British Dietetic Association, pupils can learn in the classroom about obesity and how to avoid becoming dangerously overweight.

The organisation’s comments follow a leaked draft of the new primary school curriculum, attained by the Guardian, which revealed proposals to put a more central focus on maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle in primary schools.

Health experts may welcome this new direction in the curriculum as results from the Department of Health's National Child Measurement Programme revealed in December 2008 that almost one in three Year 6 children are either overweight or obese.

Anna Groom, specialist paediatric dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said: "Healthy eating is on the agenda in most if not all schools, with the implementation of the new nutrient-based standards for school lunches from the School Food Trust; food provision is improving, and whilst this is not always reflected in consumption I am pleased that all school children will at least be offered a balanced school lunch.”

She stressed that schools have a role to play in educating children about food and obesity prevention.

"They can also support the treatment of those already overweight through whole-school food policy - however, it is not up to schools alone to combat obesity,” Ms Groom added.

According to the results of the National Child Measurement Programme 2007/08, in Reception, almost one in four of the children measured was either overweight or obese.

In Year 6, this rate was nearly one in three and the percentage of children who are obese is almost twice as high in Year 6 than in Reception.

The prevalence of underweight, overweight and obese children by NCMP year in England for 2006/07 and 2007/08 does not differ significantly.

Ms Groom concluded: “The aim for schools to provide two hours of sport inside school hours and an extra two hours outside school is fantastic, however this has a large financial burden and may not actually target those requiring the increased exercise.

"Schools should be supported in implementing activities of everyday life, for example walking to school."

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