FREE fruit handed out at school gates has been proposed as one way of reducing the child health crisis in Southend.

New figures have revealed one in three primary school children leave in Year Six classed as obese.

The statistics, from the NHS’ national child measurement programme, also show that a fifth of children entering reception classes in Southend are obese.

Councillor Daniel Cowan, who represents St Laurence Ward on Southend Council, said: “Every person has a different situation.

“Southend has good programmes and initiatives which help people to eat healthy.

“Initiatives like the smoke free gates could work for this ongoing issue.

“Perhaps free fruit could be given out outside the school gates. Something like that could work. We need to look at ways to solve it rather than point fingers.

“Not every family has the time or the opportunity to exercise properly every day. Healthy eating is really important if that is the case.”

Darren Woollard is the executive headteacher for Blenheim and Temple Sutton primary schools and the head chairman of the Southend Primary Heads’ Association.

He said: “It’s part of a wider issue in society.

“I know schools across Southend are aware of the problem and are dealing with it.

“The children need to be taught that living an unhealthy lifestyle has consequences for them.

“They must be physically healthy and mentally healthy. That’s really important to us.

“In specific cases, we would work with parents and other agencies to offer advice on becoming healthier.

“Everyone needs to work together.”

A spokesman for Southend Council said: “We are working hard to ensure children in Southend have a healthy future, which includes eating healthily and exercising regularly. We work closely with schools and parents to support families to lead healthy lifestyles.”