U.K School Lunches and Bad News

Childhood Obesity News talked about the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), which is in charge of inspecting and regulating services that provide care for kids and education for all ages. One thing Ofsted concerns itself with is fitness, and here is more on that.

Yearly in October, the National Health Service publishes a report. The most recent one begins,

This report presents findings from the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for England, 2016-17 school year for children in Reception (aged 4-5 years) and Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) in state schools.

Courtesy of the government, anybody can examine all kinds of tables and slides and data compilations. (The national classification system calls 4- and 5-year-olds “children in Reception,” and designates 10- and 11-year-olds as Year 6.) So, in the 2016-2017 school year, one-fourth of the reception children were overweight or obese. For the year 6 kids, the proportion was one-third.

In both age groups, obesity is more prevalent among boys. The “deprivation gap” — the differences in obesity prevalence between the country’s most and least deprived areas — has gotten worse.

NHS and Ofsted also, quite appropriately, also make rules about the meals served in government-run schools. Last August, when the Childhood Obesity Plan was published, the government reaped criticism for not forbidding grocery stores and junk food manufacturers from advertising to children.

Government-supplied breakfasts for school children are said to have great benefits, both health-wise and as a support for children’s ability to absorb their education. Of course, school lunches accomplish the same ends — but the conservative Tory party pointed out that free breakfast only costs the government one-tenth as much. Then, the administration seemed drag its feet about providing even that much.

The Prime Minister gave a speech in which critics charged that “not a single mention was given to strengthening the government’s plan to curb childhood obesity — the biggest public health crisis that we face.” Graham MacGregor wrote in The Guardian:

We now call on the prime minister for an urgent meeting with her new health policy unit to rewrite and restore the ineffectual obesity plan that she issued last summer and start saving the lives of those who are socially deprived and help to rescue the NHS from bankruptcy. Public health is hugely underfunded, considering its cost-effectiveness.

Then, early this year, there was bad news for everybody. It came from WAVES, a study whose long-form title is “West Midlands ActiVe lifestyle and healthy Eating in School children.” It is described as socially and ethnically diverse, with a sample size large enough to be meaningful.

WAVES was a year-long intervention that added an extra 30 minutes of physical activity at school, and had a social media presence where local families could post their activity. Schools involved in the program hosted workshops to improve healthful cooking skills.

The kids who went through it were compared with kids who didn’t, and as it turned out, according to the researchers, WAVES “did not result in a statistically significant BMI z score overall, and there was no evidence of effect on measured diet or physical activity levels in children.” They added another, quite discouraging sentence:

Within the context of wider evidence, it is likely that any effect of school-based educational, motivational and skill-centered interventions on obesity prevention is small.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “National Child Measurement Programme — England, 2016-17,” NHS.uk, 10/19/17
Source: “Masterchef winner suggests Theresa May scrapped obesity legislation because she doesn’t have children,” Telegraph.co.uk, 05/29/17
Source: “Tories may backtrack on pledge to give free breakfasts to children,” Express.co.uk, 07/04/17
Source: “Theresa May must act to tackle obesity without delay,” TheGuardian.com, 07/05/17
Source: “School obesity prevention program did not impact childhood BMI,” Healio.com, 02/23/18
Photo credit: The Library of Congress on Visualhunt/No known copyright restrictions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources