NEARLY one in four children in Southampton are finishing primary school obese, new figures reveal.

The Royal College of GPs said access to healthy food “should be a right and not a privilege,” as a study found children in the most deprived areas of England are more than twice as likely to be obese than those in the least deprived.

NHS Digital figures show 24 per cent of Year 6 pupils in Southampton in 2019-20 were obese, of which 5.2 per cent were severely obese, with a body mass index (BMI) in the top 0.4 per cent for a child’s age and sex. Another 13.9 per cent were overweight.

That means 38 per cent of Southampton’s youngsters are unhealthily overweight when they finish primary school.

The NHS said these figures should be interpreted with caution, however, with school closures during the coronavirus pandemic impacting data collection in the latest year.

Cabinet member for health and adults, Councillor Lorna Fielker, said: “It is a problem we are fully aware of at the city council and that we are working to address.

“Earlier this year there was a childhood obesity enquiry. We will be looking at a series of recommendation at the December cabinet meeting. “

Cllr Fielker said she agreed that access to healthy food should be a right and not a privilege.

She added: “As a nation our children should be looked after. Our children are the future generations and we should not be denying them access to healthy food.

“The figures are shocking.

“Over the last couple of years we [the council] have been working with City Catering Southampton which addresses holiday hunger.”

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 6 and reception-age children in state-maintained schools across England to monitor obesity trends.

It revealed that 27.5 per cent of 10 and 11-year-old children in the most deprived areas of England were obese compared with 11.9 per cent of those in the least deprived areas.

Among reception-age children, 13.3 per cent in the most deprived areas were obese compared with six per cent in the least deprived.