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Publication, Part of

National Child Measurement Programme, England 2019/20 School Year

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Current Chapter

Part 1: Age, sex and time series

Part 1: Age, sex and time series

In 2019/20, 890,608 children were measured as part of the National Child Measurement Programme, 26% lower than the 1,198,261 children who were measure in 2018/19. A similar proportion of boys and girls were measured in each year, with more children measured in Year 6 than in Reception:

    Number measured Percentage Change
School year Sex 2018/19 2019/20
Reception Boys 304,820 203,724 33%
Girls 292,992 195,746 33%
Both 597,812 399,470 33%
Year 6 Boys 305,756 249,946 18%
Girls 294,693 241,192 18%
Both 600,449 491,138


Data quality work has been undertake to ascertain that at national level, the population measured in 2019/20 is similar to that in previous years and though the volumes of data are lower, the outputs are consistent with previous NCMP years.

Included in this section is information on weight categories at national level by school year, age, sex and the relevant time series. At national level, analysis indicates that the findings in this section are directly comparable to previous NCMP years.


Obesity prevalence (including severe obesity) was more than twice as high in year 6 (21.0% which equates to 103,362 children) compared to reception (9.9%, 39,404 children). 

Severe obesity prevalence was higher in year 6 (4.7%) compared to reception (2.5%).

The proportion of underweight children was higher in year 6 (1.4%) than in reception (0.9%).

Around three quarters of reception children were healthy weight (76.1%). In year 6 it was around two thirds (63.4%).

Please note that the displayed percentages sum to over 100% because the obese percentage of 9.9% includes the severely obese percentage of 2.5%.


Please note that the displayed percentages sum to over 100% because the obese percentage of 21.0% includes the severely obese percentage of 4.7%.



The difference in obesity prevalence between boys and girls was larger in year 6 than reception.

Underweight prevalence was higher for boys in reception but higher for girls in year 6.

In reception, 75.5% of boys were healthy weight compared to 76.7% of girls. In year 6, 61% of boys were healthy weight compared to 65.9% of girls. 



Note: The proportion of children in the healthy weight category is not shown as it would lengthen the scale making the differences for the other categories harder to see.   


For more information: Table 1 National Child Measurement Programme, England, 2019/20 school year.



Time series

The prevalence of obesity has increased in reception from 9.7% in 2018/19 to 9.9% in 2019/20. For year 6 it increased from 20.2% in 2018/19 to 21.0% in 2019/20.

The prevalence of severe obesity has increased in year 6 from 4.4% in 2018/19 to 4.7% in 2019/20. For reception it increased from 2.4% in 2018/19 to 2.5% in 2019/20.

Over a longer time period, obesity prevalence is similar for reception compared to 2006/07 and higher for year 6 compared to 2009/10. Note: for year 6, comparisons are not possible with the first years of the NCMP (2006/07 to 2008/09) as low participation levels led to underestimation of obesity prevalence. This, and the impact of other improvements in data quality, should be considered when making comparisons over time. Further information is available in annex B.

Severe obesity prevalence increased for reception and is also higher for year 6 over the same time periods.




For more information: Table 2 National Child Measurement Programme, England, 2019/20 school year.

Monthly time series

Introduced for the first time in 2019/20 is a national time series of weight categories, by month of measurement. The data aims to present the general patterns of prevalence of weight categories and how these vary across the years.

This section covers September 2014/15 to March 2019/20. Tables 3 and 4 present a longer time series of prevalence and number of underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese and severely obese children from September 2007/08 to March 2019/20.

It is included here as part of the data quality reporting for 2019/20 to demonstrate that up until the collection closed in March 2020, the collection year was progressing in a similar way to earlier years. It also allows the presentation of seasonal variation in weight prevalence for the first time, which may highlight patterns in the data that could be explored more fully in the future.

The NCMP data collection is designed to be representative of the population on an annual basis only. These monthly outputs present the data collected in each month, along with the prevalence and confidence intervals.

In Reception there are seasonal patterns in healthy weight, overweight and obesity prevalence by month of measurement. Overweight and obesity prevalence is highest at the start of the school year, around September and October, and then decreases and is lowest in the summer term between May and July.

Healthy weight prevalence shows the opposite pattern and is lower at the start of the school year than at the end of the school year.

In Year 6 there are no clear patterns in weight prevalence across the school years with similar prevalence of healthy weight, overweight and obese seen across the months.



These data are expected to vary for a number of reasons related to the data collections. It is expected that in a month the proportion of children measured will not be evenly spread across the country and will be concentrated in certain LAs that have chosen to measure the children at that time. Similarly, the proportion of children measured will not be split evenly across the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) deciles nor will the dataset be fully representative by ethnic category or other key variables that are associated with prevalence of obesity in children.

These impacts have not been explored or accounted for in the outputs, therefore, the data here should be treated as an indicator of the differences in prevalence across the year only as it is not possible from these outputs to assess the causes of the differences.

For more information: Tables 3 and 4, National Child Measurement Programme, England, 2019/20 school year.

Last edited: 28 October 2020 2:52 pm