It has been described as the "ticking timebomb". If nothing is done about childhood obesity, it is predicted the current generation of school children will experience the first fall in life expectancy for a century.
It seems we are warned daily about the poor state of health of children and adults in the UK. We are drowning in doom-laden statistics. In response, The TES today launches its major campaign for 2004, Get Active.
Its overall aim is to raise awareness of the issues and present ways schools can tackle this growing problem. It will do this through a range of articles and initiatives across all sections of The TES every week. We will report on the latest in expert research and advice and will promote good practice that is already happening in schools, plus provide innovative ideas and resources.
Bob Doe, editor of The TES, said: "We decided to launch the Get Active campaign because we know schools are dedicated to enhancing learning for life in the fullest sense.
"Education is about more than passing tests and exams. Children also need to learn how to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
"For a whole variety of reasons children today are often less active in their play and subjected to diets over-rich in sugar, fat and salt.
"The Get Active campaign supports teachers and schools who want to provide more energetic, healthy alternatives and to motivate children to try them."
In this special Get Active launch issue, you will find:
* The first in a series of expert columns: Professor Neil Armstrong of Exeter university urges physical educators to meet the challenge of the obesity threat (Platform, page 21).
* In our School Leadership section (page 27), Alison Shepherd urges governors to play their part in supporting healthy eating in schools.
* TES Teacher magazine on the "State of the nation". Chris Bunting tracks the possible causes of why the UK is fast on the way to becoming the "fat man of Europe" and asks if we as a society have enough motivation to turn aside from this disturbing path. Each week, Teacher will have columns, good practice ideas and relevant resources.
* Friday magazine's feature on teacher fitness in The Issue, a comprehensive look at how teachers can stay fit in their demanding and time-consuming jobs. Matthew Brown highlights the fact that 70 per cent of men and 80 per cent of women in the UK do too little exercise - although they find time to spend 20 hours a week watching television. What can be done by individual teachers and schools in general?
Next week Friday magazine will start its series of teacher fitness columns with secondary teacher Kalea Haran's preparations for the Berlin Marathon.
* FE Focus (page 7) has an interview with Stephen Studd, the chief executive officer of SkillsActive, the training body for health and fitness.
Next week The TES will launch the first in a series of 10 collectible "Thinking Cards" (see story below, left) and, on May 21, a three-part primary health poster series will begin.
The Get Active website (www.tes.co.ukgetactive) goes live today. One of its sections, Real Stories, invites schools to share their health initiatives: Thomas Fairchild community school, London, is one of hundreds to have done so. Among its schemes, it encourages its Year 6 class to skip for 20 minutes every day.
"Children have become noticeably fitter and leaner and they have taken enormous pride in their new levels of fitness," its submission reads.
It is hoped participants in the Get Active campaign will reap similar rewards.
Log on and join the fit club
Every campaign story in The TES will appear on the Get Active website. It also features:
* Downloadable resources donated to the campaign by the British Heart Foundation, Sport Relief and The Football Association;
* Ask the Expert forums, with special guests to be unveiled as the campaign progresses;
* Success stories from its registered schools;
* E-learning resources supplied by Loughborough college and designed by JDR Graphics;
* Games donated by the British Heart Foundation and Sport Relief;
* Health calculators, enabling you to rate your fitness and well-being;
* A daily tip or fact from the BHF; l School chef of the year Sharon Armstrong's weekly recipe.
As the campaign builds, so will the website. Student stickers, printable exercise charts, fantastic competitions, themed chat forums and teacher fitness diaries will all be introduced throughout the campaign. The website will create a community of like-minded schools across the UK, sharing ideas and opinions about health and fitness.
Even before the campaign's launch this week, nearly 250 schools had registered with the site: www.tes.co.ukgetactive