A cash-strapped council was blasted today for forking out thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on LIFESTYLE COACHES – for fat schoolchildren.
Nottingham City Council will target pupils as young as five by sending teams of US-style Fat Camp fitness gurus to deprived areas to promote healthy living.
The scheme – which is expected to cost around £20,000 – aims to encourage youngsters from poor backgrounds to exercise more and ditch sweet snacks in favour of fruit and veg.
But parents and campaigners yesterday blasted the move as “patronising” and said it should be up to mums and dads to get their kids active.
Tony Parkinson, 58, who has two children at Glenbrook Primary in Bilborough, Notts., as well as two secondary schoolchildren, fumed: “I think the lifestyle coaches are a waste of money.
“Parents should be responsible for the heath of their children.
“We make sure ours eat well and encourage them to be active. None of them are overweight.”
The council will pilot the scheme in the deprived Bilborough area of the city from September, with up to nine coaches being sent to 12 district primary schools.
Mum-of-three Caroline Clough, 43, accused the council of “chucking money down the drain.”
She said: “I feel like they don’t trust me to feed me kids the right things and get them exercising.
“It’s patronising, I take my children to the local park for a play and it would be better if they spent the money on improving that for everyone rather than on sending these coaches in to schools.
“The idea of a Lifestyle Coach reminds me of that horrible bully Harvey from Celebrity Fit Club a few years back.
“I don’t like the idea of some army major type screaming at children if they are a bit overweight.
“The way obesity is measured for kids these days is so strict that even normal sized children are classed as overweight. I think it’s all wrong.
“Kids need better education about the right foods to eat and exercise but that can be done by teachers and parents.
“Why do we need these gurus to stick their oar in as well?
“Once again the council are chucking money down the drain.”
Taxpayers’ groups also blasted the initiative, branding it “ridiculous.”
Robert Oxley, Campaign Manager of TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Tackling obesity at an early age is an important way of saving money in the long run but that shouldn’t need a ridiculously named Life Style coach.
“Ensuring children are regularly active and taking part in sport in school is a far better way of helping children live a healthy style.
“Children will always want the sweeter things in life, it’s up to parents to ensure they’re eating well, not an expensive taxpayer funded lifestyle coach.”
The council yesterday defended the move, which came in the wake of a report last year which revealed a whopping one-fifth of 11-year-olds in the city were obese.
Martin Smith, sports, outdoor learning and adventure services manager for the council, said: “We want to reduce obesity rates among children.
“We already have a range of programmes, such as one which encourages children to go swimming.
“We are starting in the Bilborough area, but will move it across more of the city if it is a success. The coaches have been getting training.
“They will be fully briefed on providing dietary tips in schools as well as encouraging uptake in sports, particularly among those who are less active.
“They will be looking at the best way of getting children to do more sports.”
Seven coaches have already been picked and two more may also join the team.
Some are from the council sports department while others will come from post-graduate training programmes at Nottingham Trent University.
The council, which has to make £17 million in savings by 2014, will spend £11,000 on the scheme after receiving £9,000 from national charity the Youth Sport Trust.
A council spokesman said: “Obesity rates are a concern and this is one thing we are targeting by getting more children into sport.
“It is down to the lifestyle coaches themselves to develop programmes which will make this work.
“This can be done by more sporting activities in school or even after school.”
Nottingham’s most-recent Health Profile, published last year, revealed 22.2 per cent of children who finished primary school in 2011 – those aged 10 and 11 – were classed as obese.
Last summer school clothes shops in Nottingham started stocking whopping XXXL size uniforms to accommodate bulging waistlines of pupils.
Parents could buy a boy’s blazer with a staggering 50in chest and trousers with a gut-busting 44in waist.