The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), which is currently in its twelfth year, is currently under way in Plymouth.
The programme requires all local authorities in England to weigh and measure children in Reception and Year 6 classes during the school year.
It gathers population-level data to allow analysis of trends in underweight, healthy weight, overweight and very overweight levels in children and in turn informs the local planning and delivery of services.
The programme can also help to increase public and professional understanding of weight issues in children and enables health professional to engage with children and families to discuss healthy lifestyles.
In Plymouth, the programme is operated in strict accordance with detailed national guidance which is updated annually. Operated on an opt-out basis, parents have the right to withdraw their child from the programme if they do not wish them to be weighed and measured.
In 2016 – 2017 the programme measured 5,319 children in 70 schools in Plymouth. 4,294 (81%) of children were categorised as being of a healthy weight.
The results are based on the child’s BMI centile and are not the same as the usual BMI measure which is used for adults. When considering childhood weight status it is necessary to consider the child’s exact age and their gender and make reference to the relevant centile charts that compare them with a reference population.
The parents of those children who are weighed/measured as part of the programme receive their child’s results through the post. Results are not given to the children themselves or to the school. As such, they remain confidential to the child’s parents only.
Irene Wilson, Team Manager School Nursing, Livewell South West, said: “The school nurses offer advice and support to parents through the programme. The nurses encourage parents to make small changes which have been shown to improve health outcomes in the future. Research shows that early intervention really does help.”
Plymouth City Council’s Public Health Team follows 2016/17 guidance, which recommends providing feedback to parents/guardians on the results of their child’s weight status, whilst ensuring there is a clear process for parents or guardians who may wish to discuss their individual child’s results in more detail with a health professional.
Dr Ruth Harrell, Plymouth City Council’s Director of Public Health said: “Some parents might be surprised by their child’s result. The measurement that we perform is our best estimate of the amount of excess weight that a child is carrying, but very occasionally might not be giving us the full picture.
“This is why in Plymouth we put in place a clear process for parents to discuss their child’s individual results in more detail with a health professional including the contact details of the School Nursing Service for parents to discuss any concerns.”
Councillor Lynda Bowyer, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care for Plymouth City Council, said: “It is encouraging to see that 81% of local children are a healthy weight and that processes are in place to help families with concerns about their children’s weight and support them to make positive choices.”
For families who are concerned with their child’s results, there is a healthy weight calculator available on the NHS website that can be used to check the results.