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  • Writer's pictureFlorence T

A War on Weight in the Classroom

Do I remember every science lesson from when I was in school?

Every physics experiment, chemistry explosion or dissection? No.

(Well the latter yes, because I walked out every time with animal rights

cited as the reason which was invariably respected).


I do however remember a biology lesson on calculating our BMI, and

though I can honestly say this did not cause me to have an eating

disorder, I can go back to the moment I had to calculate it and picture

my little self being astonished that a number could tell me how healthy

I was.


Years later I sat by as a teacher whilst children in my class got taken

out in small groups to be weighed. This was not a GCSE biology class

where hopefully, now, one young adult would be able to stand up and

say that worth is not determined by weight. But the pre-pubescent 10

years olds to whom, their bodies are quite alien and scary. The

National Child Measurement Programme was established in 2006 and

requires all children in reception and year 6 to be weighed at

state-funded primary schools. Despite how loudly I, as a teacher

raised my concern to the senior leadership about this happening, I

could not stop it from happening due to the fact that state schools are

currently being thrown numerous amounts of documents,

requirements and tests from the government that are ‘recommended’

and often framed in a positive light.


On the same level as this were the remarks I was met with by other

staff members - which were ‘surely you think that parents should be

told if their child is fat’ and ‘but it’s better to stop them from getting fat

now’’. School values are often referred to in primary school

assemblies and held in high regard. Never have I been to a school

where being thin or within a certain BMI is a school value.


The NCMP implies that it is the law to be within the correct weight

range. Which rings alarm bells of it being against the law to be gay,

lesbian or a different religion. To me, the implication even without the

fact is enough to confirm the fat-phobic and diet-obsessed country we

live in. There is a reason that terms and conditions are often in such a

small font or that when trying to speak to someone human on the

phone by the time you have pressed every option you have been

timed out.


You can and should (biased) opt out of the NCMP. Not because you

want your child to be a certain weight or fit a pattern or stereotype, but

because you want them to not. To not watch their parent open a letter

that deems their worth, not ask their friends if they too have been put

on diets or told to go for runs more, to not worry that when they start

secondary school their bodies will determine their group of friends or

level of popularity.


Am I saying that because your child is weighed at school this will

happen? No, just like I am saying that because you smoke I can’t

promise you will get cancer, or because you don’t wear a seatbelt I

can’t assure you that you will go throw the windscreen.


However, studies show that children whose parents are told they are

‘over-weight’ according to their BMI (which I will point out, was made

up by a white male mathematician in 1830 and is scientifically

inaccurate as it does not take into account bone density, fat

percentage, racial or cultural figures) are more likely to be put on a

diet and be told casually to "watch what they eat". Furthermore, the children

themselves are far more likely to take to social media to search for

body norms, acceptance and unhealthy coping mechanisms.


It is scary to fight against the system, and send in that opt-out letter -

to suggest to those you know that they should opt out of something

that aims to help their child stay ‘healthy’, but trust me, it is scarier to

try to explain to a twelve-year-old that no amount of food or lack of

food will heal them.

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