Extract from the Government’s Childhood obesity plan (January 2017):
Today nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer.
The burden is falling hardest on those children from low-income backgrounds. Obesity rates are highest for children from the most deprived areas and this is getting worse. Children aged 5 and from the poorest income groups are twice as likely to be obese compared to their most well off counterparts and by age 11 they are three times as likely.
Physical activity is associated with numerous health benefits for children, such as muscle and bone strength, health and fitness, improved quality of sleep and maintenance of a healthy weight. There is also evidence that physical activity and participating in organised sports and after school clubs is linked to improved academic performance.
Long-term, sustainable change will only be achieved through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals.
Although we are clear in our goals and firm in the action we will take, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word.
Helping all children to enjoy an hour of physical activity every day
There is strong evidence that regular physical activity is associated with numerous health benefits for children.24 The UK chief medical officers recommend that all children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day. Many schools already offer an average of two hours of PE or other physical activities per week. However, we need to do more to encourage children to be active every day. Every primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. At least 30 minutes should be delivered in school every day through active break times, PE, extra-curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events, with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time.
Given the considerable new funding that the soft drinks industry levy will make available for school sports, the Government is keen that schools are supported as much as possible in how they spend the available funds for maximum impact. During inspections, Ofsted assess how effectively leaders use the Primary PE and Sport Premium and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this. Physical activity will be a key part of the new healthy schools rating scheme, and so schools will have an opportunity to demonstrate what they are doing to make their pupils more physically active.
Schools will continue to have the freedom to consider spending the Primary PE and Sport Premium on specific interventions but to help schools understand what help is available, PHE will be developing advice to schools for the academic year 2017/18. This will set out how schools can work with the school nurses, health centres, healthy weight teams in local authorities and other resources, to help children develop a healthier lifestyle.
Furthermore, we will make available a new interactive online tool which will help schools plan at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. This will help schools identify gaps in the existing opportunities for children to be active and will recommend a number of solutions they can choose, for example after school clubs, initiatives such as the daily mile, creating an active playground or having an active lesson.
Improving the co-ordination of quality sport and physical activity programmes for schools
We have asked the County Sports Partnerships to work with National Governing Bodies of sport, the Youth Sport Trust and other national and local providers to ensure that from September 2017, every primary school in England has access to a co-ordinated offer of high quality sport and physical activity programmes, both local and national. As part of this, national governing bodies will offer high quality sport programmes to every primary school.
While children spend a significant amount of time in school, keeping children active is a shared responsibility and parents and carers need to play their part. The Sport England Strategy ‘Towards an Active Nation’ (2016) has already set out a major new investment of £40m into projects which offer new opportunities for families and children to get active and play sport together. This investment will focus on helping children acquire a basic level of competence in sport and physical activity as well as supporting them to have fun, regardless of their level of ability.
We will continue investing in walking and cycling to school. Walking or cycling to school provides a healthy way to start the day. The government has committed to producing a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The first strategy will set out plans for investing £300m to support cycling and walking. It will set a clear target to increase the number of children walking to school as well as continued support for Bikeability cycle training for children.
Creating a new healthy rating scheme for primary schools
Schools are a vital part of our plan, and have opportunities to support healthier eating, physical activity and to shape healthy habits. Schools also have unique contact with parents and can signpost them to information and advice on keeping their children healthy. From September 2017, we will introduce a new voluntary healthy rating scheme for primary schools to recognise and encourage their contribution to preventing obesity by helping children to eat better and move more. This scheme will be taken into account during Ofsted inspections.
The scheme will help schools to demonstrate to parents that they are taking evidence-based actions to improve their pupils’ health. Building on existing schemes where appropriate, the criteria for the rating scheme will be developed in consultation with schools and experts but will cover the school’s approach as a whole. We will seek to actively involve parents in the rating process so they can be confident their children are attending schools which provide healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.
We are also keen to celebrate schools that can demonstrate healthy approaches towards tackling obesity amongst their pupils, and therefore we will run an annual competition to recognise schools with the most innovative and impactful projects.
Ofsted already evaluate a school’s success in promoting and supporting pupils’ knowledge of how to keep themselves healthy, including through exercising and healthy eating. Inspectors expect to see pupils making informed choices about eating and physical activity and the school’s culture promoting this aspect of pupils’ welfare. This evaluation informs inspectors’ judgement on pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare.
Once the new rating scheme is operational it will be referred to in the school inspection handbook, and Ofsted inspectors will be able to take account of the scheme as an important source of evidence about the steps taken by the school to promote healthy eating and physical activity.
In addition, in 2017, Ofsted will undertake a thematic review on obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in schools. The review will provide examples of good practice and recommendations on what more schools can do in this area.
With nearly a third of children aged 2-15 overweight or obese, tackling childhood obesity requires us all to take action. Government, industry, schools and the public sector all have a part to play in making food and drink healthier and supporting healthier choices for our children. The benefits for reducing obesity are clear – it will save lives and reduce inequalities.
The actions in this plan will significantly reduce England’s rate of childhood obesity within the next 10 years. Achieving this will mean fewer obese children in 2026 than if obesity rates stay as they are.33 We are confident that our approach will reduce childhood obesity while respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat. Although we are clear in our goals and firm in the action we will take, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. Over the coming year, we will monitor action and assess progress, and take further action where it is needed.