Obesity – what can primary schools do to precent it?

Obesity – what can primary schools do to precent it?
  • May 20, 2024
  • 75

Obesity among sixth-grade students has sharply increased, according to recent data. What actions should elementary schools take to combat kid obesity, given that it is a problem that affects the entire society?

The NHS published some startling data on childhood obesity in reception and year 6 back in November (NHS, 2021).

They disclosed that within the same period, the prevalence of obesity in reception had risen from 9.9% in 2019/20 to 14.4% in 2020/21 and from 21% to 25.5% in year 6. It scarcely needs to be said that 25% of children aged 10 and 11 are classified as fat, which is a serious health issue.

Naturally, there are numerous variables at play in this situation, many of which are not related to the school.

In order to make food and drink healthier and help kids make better decisions, families, the government, businesses, and other public sector entities all have a job to play, as highlighted in an Ofsted study and blog from 2018—which I will return to in a moment.

However, the topic of this paper is, of course, what action schools might take in this larger context.

The Effect

However, it is important to consider the implications of this problem first. According to Public Health England guidance (PHE, 2021), childhood obesity is a "significant health inequality" that is more common among underprivileged children.

It states that individuals who are obese have a higher likelihood of experiencing physical health issues such as type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, or mental health issues.

Obese children may discover that their weight has an impact on their future opportunities, sense of self-worth, and underlying mental health. Additionally, unhealthy behaviors may persist into adulthood, resulting in long-term detrimental impacts on health.

The NHS spent an estimated £6.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related illnesses in 2014–2015, indicating the high financial expenses as well.

What actions are possible?

The aforementioned 2018 Ofsted report, Obesity, healthy eating, and physical activity in primary schools, which examines the steps primary schools are taking to reduce childhood obesity, is a helpful place to start. Ofsted's Chris Jones (2018) summarizes the report in a blog.

Not unexpectedly, it concludes that "the best possible way for schools to have the most impact" is to develop an appropriate curriculum. In particular, it recommends:

  • Imparting specific knowledge, such as cooking or dancing,.
  • Creating a demanding and well-organized curriculum that covers topics such as science and physical education's study of the body, as well as cooking and healthy nutrition,.
  • Giving kids plenty of chances to exercise during the school day, including plenty of chances to "get out of breath,"
  • Providing parents with information on physical development traits including balance, coordination, and agility in their kids.

Work out

Regarding exercise, it is important to note that the UK Chief Medical Officer advises all children and young people (ages five to eighteen) to participate in moderate-to-intense physical activity for an average of sixty minutes a day, seven days a week, according to Public Health England.

Naturally, schools cannot provide students with access to 60 minutes of physical education and sport each day on their own. Nonetheless, the government's 2019 Schools Sport and Activity Action Plan suggests providing 30 minutes of this during the school day.

The goal of the PE and Sport Premium is to assist elementary schools in fulfilling this obligation. According to government guidelines (DfE, 2014), it should be applied to ensure improvements in five important indicators:

  • Participation in regular physical activity by all students.
  • As a means of improving the school as a whole, physical education and sports are given more attention throughout.
  • Improved staff confidence, expertise, and abilities in teaching physical education and sports.
  • Greater access to a wider variety of sports and physical activities for all students.
  • Involvement in competitive sports has increased.


There's more information about dealing with parents on the Ofsted blog. Naturally, a lot of parents want to see more physical education and food included in the curriculum. According to the blog, what parents truly want is easy access to information about what their child is doing at school, including what they are actually eating and learning. After that, parents might investigate at home.

It also says that offering extracurricular activities is a great way to give students the chance to be active and gain new skills in addition to the timetabled physical education.

School Lunches

Schools are well aware that school meal requirements are outlined in the School Food Standards. The comprehensive practical guidance and checklist for headteachers (DfE, 2019) is the most helpful. In general, government guidelines (DfE, 2015) state that school lunches have to offer:

  • Poultry, beef, or oily fish.
  • Vegetables and fruit.
  • Potatoes, bread, and other cereals.

Additionally, it can't be:

  • Sugar-filled drinks, chips, chocolate, or candies in school lunches and vending machines.
  • More than two servings of breaded, fried, or battered meals every week.

The inspectors found no reason to suspect that schools are not adhering to the School Food Standards, according to the Ofsted report. However, he continues, "The best school leaders were going above and beyond and were showing a personal stake in the caliber of the meals they were serving."

Curiously, it continues by stating that they could find no compelling evidence linking packed lunches to the obesity epidemic. Inspectors were informed by students that their typical packed lunch consisted of a ham sandwich, a pot of yogurt, a packet of crisps, and a piece of fruit.

According to the findings, it could be worthwhile to consider switching out the crisps for something healthy. However, research indicates that the decisions that lead to obesity are more likely to occur outside of school hours, reinforcing the prior statement concerning variables beyond the school gate.

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