The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) is a key element of the government’s approach to tackling child obesity by annually measuring children in Reception (aged 4–5 years) and Year Six (aged 10–11 years) in mainstream state-maintained schools in England.1

In 2019–20, around 890,600 children were measured as part of the programme, 26% lower than the 1.2 million children who were measured in 2018–19. This reduction was largely due to COVID-19 restrictions.  A similar proportion of boys and girls were measured in each year, with more children measured in Year Six than in Reception.

Obesity more prevalent

  • The prevalence of obesity has increased in Reception from 9.7% in 2018–19 to 9.9% in 2019–20. For Year Six it increased from 20.2% in 2018–19 to 21.0% in 2019–20.
  • The prevalence of severe obesity has increased in Reception from 2.4% in 2018–19 to 2.5% in 2019–20. For Year Six it increased from 4.4% in 2018–19 to 4.7% in 2019–20.
  • Boys have a higher obesity prevalence than girls for both age groups.
  • Children living in the most deprived areas were more than twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas.
  • Severe obesity prevalence was almost four times as high for children living in the most deprived areas (3.9%) than for children living in the least deprived areas (1.0%).
  • In general, obesity prevalence was highest in London, the West Midlands, the north-east and the north-west.

Childhood obesity is a good indicator of adult obesity and poorer health outcomes. After not smoking, being a healthy weight is the most important way to reduce the risk of cancer.2


1NHS Digital. National Child Measurement Programme, England 2019/20 School Year. 2020.

2WCRF/AICR. Body fatness and weight gain and the risk of cancer. 2020.