Dangerously overweight but still overlooked

I am having real problems with a pupil in my class. It is not his behaviour; he is a lovely little boy, incredibly enthusiastic and well-behaved. His schoolwork is not a concern, either; he is bright and tries hard to improve.

The issue is his weight. He was already overweight when he started school. But now, at age 10, he is clearly obese. This makes him extremely tired and unable to cope with strenuous activity. It has also made him a target for the other students: as much as we try to prevent him from being teased, we are not able to monitor him constantly so we cannot always ward off the bullies. Sometimes we have to react instead.

The issue does seem to bother him. He knows he is overweight and will say things like: "I can't let myself get upset because I will just eat. It is the only thing that makes me feel better."

There is clearly something going on beyond the normal childish greediness I see in other students.

We have, of course, spoken to his mother and it seems that this may be where the problem lies. She is a lovely lady, but this boy is her only child (and only family, in fact) so she spoils him as much as possible. We highlight the health risks of feeding him the chocolate and chips he loves and she tells us she knows that she is harming him. However, she also says things like: "But he is so unhappy, I want to cheer him up."

We have contacted the relevant services and been told that he is not overweight enough for them to act beyond the standard interventions.

The trouble is, this approach is clearly not working. It is an ongoing issue and nothing we have been able to do has had an impact. We are at a loss as to where to go next. Clearly, the problem is beyond our power to solve. But no one seems willing to help. I simply don't understand why we have to wait for the difficulties to get "bad enough" before anything happens.

The writer is a teacher in the South of England

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Email jon.severs@tesglobal.com

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