Obesity Action Scotland: Majority of parents support children being weighed in school

The majority of Scottish parents support the idea of their children being weighed in school, a new poll has found.

By Elsa Maishman
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 4:04 pm

The poll, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Obesity Action Scotland, found 56 per cent of more than 1,000 parents and carers supported the practice of weighing children in school, while 29 per cent opposed it.

A third of those who opposed it raised concerns over children’s mental health and wellbeing, especially around eating disorders and body image.

Other reasons were believing it was not the school or government’s place to weigh children (23 per cent) and concern it would lead to issues like bullying (10 per cent).

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The Scottish Government aims to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

Height and weight measurements are currently taken of children in primary 1, but this may be extended under Scottish Government plans set out in 2018.

Parents of younger children were more likely to support weight measurement in schools. Some 62 per cent of five to eight-year-olds supported it, compared to 50 per cent of 15 to 17-year-olds.

Eating disorder charity Beat believes children being weighed in school increases the risk of developing eating disorders.

Director of external affairs Tom Quinn said it makes children anxious, regardless of whether or not they have an eating disorder, and called for the practice to be scrapped.

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"Weighing children in schools exacerbates the risk of developing an eating disorder, particularly if it is done irresponsibly, as a negative experience can trigger disordered eating patterns,” he said.

"This can include being weighed in front of others rather than in a private space, or results shared with the child and other children in the class rather than with just with the child’s parents.”

Mr Quinn called for health boards to be given guidance on weighing children in a sensitive way, or for the practice to be scrapped.

The Scottish Government Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan states: “To make progress on our national ambition and reduce health risks in later life, it is essential that [children], and their families, are well supported to achieve a healthier weight.

"We therefore need to have the means to monitor weight from birth through to adolescence, and to offer families appropriate support.”

Eating disorder charity Beat can be contacted on 0808 801 0677 or at beateatingdisorders.org.uk.

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