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Helping overweight children in Sheffield shed the pounds

Richard Holmes at Mayfield Valley, which is one of his favourite places in Sheffield.
Richard Holmes at Mayfield Valley, which is one of his favourite places in Sheffield.
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Richard Holmes is chief executive of not-for-profit King’s Foundation, which aims to get two million children active by 2020 through their sports and activity camps.

The Kings Foundation has worked with more than 1.5 million children at their 250 UK sports and activity camps in over 60 venues Richard lives in Fulwood with wife Lorraine children Dan and Ben and is passionate about the value of sport as a vital element of child development.

Local Government Association finding that more than 20,000 children are classed as severely obese when they leave primary school

Local Government Association finding that more than 20,000 children are classed as severely obese when they leave primary school

But what should we do in response to the Local Government Association report finding that more than 20,000 children are classed as severely obese when they leave primary school?

Understandably, our schools are often the focus for children’s exercise programmes, but we must not forget about the activity levels of children during the 25 percent of the year when they are off school.

Government revenues from the recently imposed soft-drinks levy – or from the sugar-tax – are being channelled back into intervention programmes and Jamie Oliver is getting lots of air-time once again.

The calorie-in part of the health-equation for calories children consume is making progress, but it seems that this is only half of the solution. I ask is enough progress being made in the calorie-out part of the equation?

For most children, the school holidays used to represent freedom, endless days of play and an opportunity to escape.

But it seems that increasingly children’s time is spent indoors and looking at screens. Online lives mean there is no escape from the bully or from the pressure to conform and there is less incentive or need to be active.

Added to this school holidays are an increasing challenge for working parents, as their need for childcare solutions don’t go away when the end of term buzzer sounds.

Getting children active during the school holidays could be a very significant contributor to the overall health and well-being of children across the UK.

My organisation has a goal of getting a total of two million children active by 2020 and we focus our efforts on out-of-school programmes.

Not only will a typical child be five times more active when they attend one of our Kings Camps activity programmes, but they will be free to be children: no screens and no negative peer pressure.

Thankfully, the availability of activity programmes is increasing, but making them affordable to children from poorer communities remains a very real challenge.

Public sector and voluntary organisations can only do so much – so if we really want to give all children the opportunity to be active, additional government funding is required.

It is good that childhood obesity is a talking point. The sugar-tax is a positive start to tackling this very real issue and physical education in schools should be a priority, but let’s not allow the good work to be unravelled by the “school-holiday blind-spot” that represents 25 percent of the year. For more on activities and venues around the UK visit www.kingscamps.org/venue website.