Information, guidance and resources about encouraging healthy weight in schools.

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Tackling obesity is complex as there are many causes for it, including societal, cultural, environmental, economic and behavioral.

At its most basic explanation, obesity is caused by taking in more energy through food than we use through activity.

Being obese as a child makes it more likely to be obese as an adult. According to the NHS, obesity in adults increases risk of Go to (opens new window):

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • some types of cancer

National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)

The NCMP Go to (opens new window) measures the height and weight of children in reception (4 to 5 year olds) and in year 6 (10 to 11 year olds) to work out what proportion are overweight or obese.

This data is used:

  • at a national level, to inform public health planning
  • at a local level, to inform planning and delivery of services for local children

NCMP Measurements

Measuring a population of children (NCMP)

≤2nd centile


>2 - <85th centile

Healthy weight

≥85th centile


≥95th centile


In Bristol, 2016/17 NCMP data shows that:

  • over a fifth of reception children were recorded as overweight or obese
  • a third of year 6 children were recorded as overweight or obese

Read more information on the NHS child measurement page Go to (opens new window).

According to the 2011 Cochrane review Go to (opens new window), childhood obesity prevention research should focus on identifying how we can use interventions within health, education and care systems, to achieve long term, sustainable results. This includes schools.

The Government national childhood obesity strategy

The Government released the national childhood obesity strategy Go to (opens new window) in 2016 and updated it in 2017. The strategy states:

“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. Reducing obesity levels will save lives as obesity doubles the risk of dying prematurely.

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.”

The strategy recommends schools should:

  • help all children to have an hour of physical activity every day
  • improve the provision of sport and physical activity programmes
  • make school food healthier

How schools can tackle childhood obesity

Reducing childhood obesity is a national and local Public Health priority. Schools play an especially important role in tackling childhood obesity.

Practical steps, highlighted by the 2011 Cochrane review, include:

  • a school curriculum that includes healthy eating, physical activity and talking about body image
  • more sessions for physical activity and the development of fundamental movement skills throughout the school week
  • improvements in nutritional quality of the food offered in schools
  • offering environments and encouraging habits that support children eating healthier foods and being active throughout the day
  • support for teachers and other staff to implement health promotion strategies and activities
  • parent support and home activities that encourage children to be more active, eat more nutritious foods and spend less time online, on their phones, or watching television

School healthy weight resources 

Public Health England resources on:

On our Healthy Schools topic pages, you can find resources and advice on: