National Child Measurement Programme

Summary

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of children in reception class (aged 4 to 5) and year 6 (aged 10 to 11), to assess overweight and obesity levels in children within primary schools.

Top tasks

Data and publications from the programme are available in our publication pages

The NCMP data can be used nationally to support local public health initiatives, and locally to inform the planning and delivery of services for children. The programme is recognised internationally as a world-class source of public health intelligence and holds UK National Statistics status.

The NCMP was set up in line with the government's strategy to tackle obesity and to:

  • inform local planning and delivery of services for children
  • gather population-level data to allow analysis of trends in growth patterns and obesity
  • increase public and professional understanding of weight issues in children and be a vehicle for engaging with children and families about healthy lifestyles and weight issues.

Heights and weights are measured and used to calculate a Body Mass Index (BMI) centile. The measurement process is overseen by trained healthcare professionals in schools.

Accessing the data and publications

Data and publications from the programme are available in our publication pages. The Public Health England Obesity Risk Factors Intelligence team (PHE Obesity RFI) also present NCMP data in an online data tool that enables the user to examine patterns and trends at local authority level. 

Data published between 2006-07 and 2012-13 can be found in the UK data archive.

Defining overweight and obesity in children

Defining children as overweight or obese is a complex process, given that their height and weight change at the same time. BMI is calculated by dividing their weight (in kilograms) by the square of their height (in metres).

The method of assigning a BMI classification is different for children and adults. Further information is available in a guide to classifying body mass index in children produced by Public Health England (PHE) - formerly the National Obesity Observatory (NOO).

Taking part in the survey

Participation in the programme is not compulsory, but non-participation is on an opt-out basis only. Before the programme starts each school year, local authorities write to the parents and carers of all children eligible for measurement to inform them of the programme and to give them the opportunity to opt their children out. 

How the data is collected

Local authorities are asked to collect data on children's height and weight from all state maintained schools within their area. The data are submitted to NHS Digital and all of the returns are collated and validated centrally.

Local authority role

Until March 2013, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were responsible for the collection, holding and processing of NCMP data. However, following legislation, local authorities are now responsible for the collection of NCMP data.

Public Health England role

Public Health England provide operational guidance to local authorities and schools on how to undertake the exercise, which states:

  • local authorities will take steps to ensure that parents receive a letter explaining the purpose of the programme, and provide them with the opportunity to withdraw their child from it
  • if local authorities are routinely feeding back results to parents, they aim to do this within 6 weeks of measurement
  • the privacy and dignity of the child must be safeguarded at all times, and the measurement is to be done sensitively in a private setting
  • the height and weight information must be gathered by health professionals with minimal physical contact
  • individual children's results will not be shared with school staff or other pupils, and suppression and disclosure controls will be implemented when the data set and publication is released to ensure that individual children cannot be identified

If you have an enquiry about the National Child Measurement Programme, please call 0300 303 5678 or email enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

Contact details

If you have an enquiry about the National Child Measurement Programme, please call 0300 303 5678 or email enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

Further information

  1. internal

    IT system - overview and requirements

    The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) system offers a range of approaches to record data at the point of measurement. Organisations need to choose which approach is best for them and any providers collecting data on their behalf.

  2. internal

    IT system

    Find out about the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) IT system, including how to access it and guidance documentation.

  3. internal

    User access controls

    Access to the new National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) IT system is controlled at a local authority level. Access is given if there's a clear business need and in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. Find out more about user roles.