A 'sporty' eight-year-old girl is trying to skip meals after she was classed as 'obese' by her school.
Stuetina Avery Hawkins says her daughter Sienna was sent home from school with the letter following a statutory government weigh-in at her school.
"I thought it would be about an after-school club.
“Instead, it labelled her ‘obese’ and by the time I saw it, Sienna had also read it," she said.
Despite Stuetina assuring her daughter that she looked fine, the youngster took the letter to heart. And the consequences have been disturbing, her mum told The Sun newspaper.
"I worry the letter has triggered body dysmorphia and am doing everything I can to prevent this. Sienna’s now dieting and weight-obsessed... She has tried to avoid meals, telling me she isn’t hungry or she ate a lot at lunch. When I ask her what is wrong, she tells me it’s because the letter said she was fat."
The formerly sporty youngster even announced she wanted to give up playing in her all girls football team because she was worried about looking "fat" in her kit.
"The little girl who loved doing Joe Wicks workouts every day in lockdown is now worried she looks silly in her sports kit and will be bullied. When she said she wanted to stop playing football because of her insecurities, I felt like crying," said Stuetina, who is 31.
"She said she was worried about being teased. She’s convinced her friends think she is fat. Her self-esteem has been hit hard."
Luckily Stuetina convinced her daughter to carry on playing and the youngster has now gone on to form her own football team called MK City Topaz, specifically for girls under 10.
Sienna was measured at 3ft 6in and weighed 3st 5lb. According to public health BMI tables, this puts her in the obese category.
Her mum said: “Sienna is a little chunky but is tall and incredibly active. She is bigger for her age but has been through a growth spurt and she’s always been big-boned. She wears 10 to 11-year-olds’ clothing because she is tall.
“She does drama club three times a week, after-school club on a Thursday and football practice on Friday. She then spends all day Saturday playing in competitions with her girls’ footie team."
She said the letter, which came last September, did not offer practical help about food or diet and, as a parent, she found it confronting.
Mum to 16-month-old twins Finley and Wyatt and also Miyla, 13, Stuetina says her family eats healthy meals that she cooks from scratch. She also limits her children's screen time and encourages them to be active.
“In my view, the aim (of the letters) is to make parents feel guilty," she said. "Sienna’s dad is tall and slim. I’m still losing my baby weight after giving birth to twins just over a year ago, but I consider myself of average size...We are not a fat family.
“A better approach is needed — finding out how active a child is, what sports they play and what they eat, before simply looking at a BMI table and labelling a little girl. Each child is different.”
Stuetina wants to see the school weigh-ins scrapped and posted her views on social media.
"I heard from another parent whose daughter was classed as too fat. She said the child is currently struggling with bulimia. She's 10 years old. It's just crazy.
"Weighing children when they are so young is just storing up problems with eating disorders."
Many parents from all over the UK have called on the government to scrap the weighing of children in schools.
Pupils in reception and year six currently have to step on the scales as part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP).
NCMP was halted in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic but was be reintroduced in September, following fears the coronavirus pandemic has worsened child obesity
The 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 programme was set up in line with the government's strategy to tackle obesity.
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.