THE number of children in their last year at primary school in Somerset is on the rise, according to new figures.

A total of 30.3 per cent of Year 6 pupils in the South West are overweight or obese - up from 30.1 per cent last year.

And even more worrying, the statistics from the National Child Measurement Programme show 3.2 per cent of those youngsters are severely obese.

The proportion of overweight and obese children in Reception gone down to 21.9 per cent from 23.1 per cent.

Although the figures are less than the national average, they demonstrate the importance of reducing sugar and calories in everyday foods children regularly consume.

And these children pose a significant concern in terms of their health and well-being.

Although in relative terms the prevalence of severe obesity remains low, in absolute terms it represents a very large number of children across the region.

Justine Womack, health and wellbeing programme manager for Public Health England South West, said: "These continuing high rates of childhood obesity, combined with widening health inequalities, highlight why government is taking bold steps to tackle this crisis.

"This threat to our children’s health has been decades in the making – we’re moving in the right direction but reversing it will not happen overnight."

She said that children with excess weight are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, bullying and stigma in childhood.

They are also more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of preventable illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

PHE’s Change4Life campaigns help millions of families make healthier choices through meal swap suggestions and the Food Scanner app, which reveals the sugar, salt and fat in foods and drinks.

Change4Life also supports schools to embed healthier habits into everyday school life.