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More than third of Warwickshire 10 and 11 year-olds overweight or obese

By Andy Micthell, Local Democracy Reporter

DATA from Warwickshire County Council suggests that more than a third of the county’s 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight or obese.

The council’s performance data covering up to the end of December 2023 included a new measure, the proportion of year six pupils that were overweight or very overweight.

It is reported as 35.2 per cent for the whole county and while the council’s target has yet to be determined, this area has been deemed as “not on track” with performance “declining”.

Further detail in the report that accompanied the statistics highlighted hotspots in the north.

It read: “There is a national upward trend in the percentage of children who are overweight or very overweight in year six.

“With 35.2 per cent of all year six children being overweight, including obese, Warwickshire was slightly better than the England average of 36.6 per cent.

“The highest figures in Warwickshire are seen in Nuneaton & Bedworth (40.7 per cent) and North Warwickshire (38.3 per cent).

“There is a support offer for children in Warwickshire delivered through health visiting and the school health and wellbeing services, targeted at high priority families, communities and schools.”

Included in that is a pilot offering free school meals “to all primary school aged children in Creating Opportunities area schools” – Creating Opportunities is the name associated with the county’s work on levelling up.

That follows on from a report from the county’s director of public health Dr Shade Agboola.

Published in January 2023, it recommended the authority “explores the feasibility of free school meals for all primary school children in Warwickshire, as research shows that children are able to learn better in school if they have a full stomach”.

The pace of progress on that recommendation has been criticised over the past year. Dr Agboola reported in January 2024 that work, including “a full literature review, evaluating the current provision, benefits, challenges, learning from others and key considerations”, had been run through as well as “available” data on current uptake and eligibility of free school meals and cost estimates.

At that point, the council was “scoping the possibility of a pilot scheme in a North Warwickshire school”.

The obesity figures were presented to cabinet – the panel of Conservative councillors in charge of major service areas – this week by portfolio holder for customer and transformation Councillor Yousef Dahmash (Con, Hillmorton).

“There is a national problem here but we are not doing well either, particularly if you look at Nuneaton & Bedworth and North Warwickshire,” he said.

“I don’t have the answers, I am sure there are people in this room who potentially might. It is almost one in two, 40 per cent, it is huge.”

It is one of seven measures that help to inform councillors of progress on the Child Friendly Warwickshire strategy – described as “a collective mission to create opportunities and lasting and positive change for children and young people” – with six currently reporting as not on track.

They include more than one in 200 of the county’s 10-to-24-year-olds being admitted to hospital due to self harm, higher than target rates of under-18s being admitted to hospital due to alcohol and the volume of children being the subject of a child protection plan, where a child is deemed to be at risk of significant harm, being 20 per cent higher than target. The council reports that progress on each of those measures is “static”.

The report notes “a period of previously improving performance” related to children in care or in need across the financial year 2022-23″.

It adds: “The decline in performance can be attributed to an increase in demand from people requesting and accessing services within the period due to the cost-of-living crisis alongside rising numbers of teenagers with social, emotional and mental health needs.

“This increased demand is expected to continue. This has resulted in a rise in caseloads for some key teams.”

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