ALMOST half of Barnsley’s youngsters are classed as ‘unhealthily overweight’ when they leave primary school.

NHS Digital figures show 25.9 per cent of year six pupils in Barnsley schools were obese last year.

Nearly eight per cent of those were classed as ‘severely obese’, which means they had a body mass index (BMI) in the top 0.4 per cent for a child’s age and sex.

It means the area has seen the largest rise in the proportion of older primary school student who are obese compared to before the Covid pandemic across the entirety of the country.

A total of 19.3 per cent of pupils were classed as obese in 2019/20, the latest period available with comparable data.

A further 14 per cent of children were also overweight, meaning 39.9 per cent of the borough’s youngsters are classed as ‘unhealthily overweight’ when they finish primary school.

The data comes from the government’s annual National Child Measurement Programme – part of its approach to tackling obesity – which records the height and weight of year six and reception-age children in state-maintained schools across England to monitor obesity trends.

Helen Stewart, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We now find ourselves in a situation where our most vulnerable children are twice as likely to become obese, and subsequently be at a higher risk of chronic illnesses, mental health issues and even a shorter life span.

“It’s inherently wrong that these children can be placed at such a disadvantage before even leaving primary school.”

Earlier this year, Barnsley became the first town in the north of England to implement restrictions on junk food advertising.

The council’s measures, developed in collaboration with food charity Sustain, have been introduced to protect the health and adults and children – and they’ll be in place across all of their advertising estate.

Being the first authority in the north of England to implement the policy, restrictions will limit advertising on all Barnsley Council-owned or leased advertising sites.

This serves to protect children and adults from exposure to high fat, salt or sugar advertising, which can influence what people eat and drink, as well as how much.

It links to the government’s planed ban on junk food adverts on TV before 9pm but Katherine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said more needs to be done.

She added: “The precise causes will still need to be analysed, but we do know that sales of unhealthy food products increased during the pandemic.

“The small drop, likely to be a consequence of children returning to school post-pandemic and having regular snack and mealtimes, shows improvements are possible.”