Doubt over claim Highgate is home to most overweight children in west Haringey
17:00 14 July 2014
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Highgate is home to the highest number of overweight or obese children in the west of Haringey, bucking an otherwise clear east-west divide.
However, the figures released last week have been contested by a primary school teacher who said they are not a “fair reflection” of Highgate’s schoolchildren.
Between 37 and 46 per cent of Highgate children in the last year of primary school are obese or overweight, according to a report released by Haringey Council.
It shows childhood obesity levels in Highgate are on a par with several areas in Tottenham, while neighbouring Crouch End, Hornsey and Muswell Hill all have significantly lower numbers of unhealthy children.
Lorna Ross, deputy headteacher at St Michael’s Primary School in North Hill, doubted the report’s findings.
“If you come into assembly, you only see a handful of overweight children,” she said. “Parents here are very enlightened. The children eat healthy food, they have healthy diets and, for our school meals, we always have lots of salads.
“I think it’s about the link to poverty. I worked in Hackney for 18 years and saw it much more there than in this school.”
The council measured obesity levels by taking samples of children in State primary schools across the borough last year.
Highgate’s sample size was considerably smaller than in other wards as it only houses two Haringey primary schools and this has been given as a possible explanation for the figures.
“It’s a bit of an anomaly,” a Haringey Council spokesman said. “It doesn’t take into account who goes to private schools and quite a few of the kids who go to the State schools are from other boroughs but they are not included in the figures. There isn’t really a Highgate problem.”
The report reveals that about 39 per cent of 10 and 11-year-old children in Haringey are overweight, compared with the national average of 33.3 per cent.
While only 21 per cent of white British children in Year 6 were considered overweight or obese in 2013, 53pc of black children of the same age were deemed to be unhealthy.
The findings, presented at a meeting of Haringey’s Health and Wellbeing Board last week, declared that childhood obesity is closely linked to deprivation.
Obese children are more likely to be absent from school due to illness and receive more medical care, according to the report.
The proximity of fast-food outlets to residential areas was also highlighted as a potential influence on obesity levels.
Nutritionist Vicki Lee, who works in Archway Road, Highgate, said it is not only children in deprived areas who are at risk.
“I should think that the more privileged Highgate children have access to more sweet things and maybe their parents are not around as much to control it. There’s not enough education in schools.”