Borough schools told they hold the key to child obesity crisis

Obesity levels among Wigan primary school-leavers are at a record high
Obesity levels among Wigan primary school-leavers are at a record high

Fitness experts have urged borough schools to use their PE budgets wisely after it was revealed that the proportion of borough 10 and 11-year-olds who are classified as obese rose for the fifth year running and is at its highest since records began.

Latest Public Health England data released this month show that in Wigan, almost one in five children (21.5 per cent) nearing the end of primary education are classified as obese.

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The 2018 Health Profiles shows that in 2016/17, 737 10 and 11-year-olds fall into this concerning category, 300 more than there were 10 years ago, and each of these children are said to be “at real risk of serious acute chronic health problems.”

The news comes as leading sports coach firm EdStart reveals that schools across Wigan have around £1.6m to spend collectively every year on fighting childhood obesity through better sport and PE at school.

Chris Irwin, CEO of EdStart, said: “I appreciate that teachers are already stretched, but the ring-fenced, annual PE and sport premium is there for a reason; and I urge schools across Wigan to use it more wisely when term time starts in September, given recent obesity levels here.

“Last month, the Government announced the latest component in its childhood obesity plan, intended to help halve childhood obesity by 2030, but EdStart warns that the damage is already done, and that action needs to be taken now.

“The bottom line is, these kids are already obese. Reversing that will not happen overnight, so there is literally no time to waste.

“Schools across Wigan need to wake up and accept that they have a duty of care to those already obese, and to those who aren’t, to ensure that together, they fight against childhood obesity by offering better, more regular and effective PE in schools.”

According to the Department for Education, schools across Wigan have to spend their annual PE and sport premium budget on additional and sustainable improvements to the quality of PE and sport they offer.

Some of their suggestions on how schools should use their ring-fenced PE and sport premium budget include:

Provide staff with professional development, mentoring, training and resources to help them teach PE and sport more effectively;

Hire qualified sports coaches to work with teachers to enhance or extend current opportunities;

Introduce new sports, dance or other activities.