Along with maths, English and geography, do you want a subject called “weight” on your kids’ report cards?

Hands up all those who, like me, shout, “No!”

The proposal from academic and medico David Penington that children’s weight should be recorded and then feature on school report cards is so boneheaded and wrong, I barely know where to begin.

How about we skip the “Night Before School Weigh-In” – accompanied by the sound of thousands of children regurgitating their dinner down the toilet after perusing websites on dieting, anorexia and bulimia.

And we don’t have to imagine the scenes at school the next day, because in the ’70s a generation of students was weighed during PE classes and their measurements posted on the gym wall for all to see. Now, as parents, many recall the experience as “devastating”.

They became self-conscious, were bullied and developed eating disorders back in the day when there wasn’t even a name for that stuff.

Instead, why don’t we go straight to the handing over of the report card:

“Well done! You got an ‘A’ for English.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m fat.”

“No, you’re not! You’re clever and smart and …”

“I’m FAT!”

“What your mother is saying is that it doesn’t matter if …”

Or, perhaps it will go like this:

“You’re FAT!”

“I got an ‘A’ in geography, dad.”

“Who cares? You got an ‘F’ for FAT. You FAIL!”

“But …”

“Your father’s right. You do need to go on a diet.”

Then there’s this scenario:

“You got an ‘F’ for maths. That’s not good enough.”

“But on Facebook I got an ‘A’ for Anorexia and a ‘B+’ for Bulimia, mum.”

In any event, expect a resounding slamming of doors followed by an echoing silence.

Conversation closed.

Many public health officials fancy themselves as Mary Poppins – parachuting into the lives of failing families and offering guidance with a firm but loving hand.

But The State is a really rotten Nanny – she’s a capricious, hypocritical, gossipy, vindictive bat.

No sane parent would ever employ a State Nanny to look after the kids.

Because what kind of nanny plonks her charges in front of the TV watching rolling advertisements for hamburgers, sugary cereals, drinks and lollies, and then berates them for gobbling them up? What sort of nanny sells off public open space for development, approves cramped housing with no backyards and then orders kids to go outside and play?

How about the nanny who cuts funding for school sports, then urges children to traipse from door-to-door selling chocolate to raise money for new basketball hoops? And just what variety of nanny encourages families to live in new housing estates with no public transport or bike paths – far away from schools – and then nags them to leave the car behind and walk?

This is the same State Nanny who – knowing full well her record of abject failure to care – launches into the classroom with a set of scales and fat-measuring calipers. Then comes the frown and finger-wag.

“You’ve had way too much sugar and not enough medicine. And you’re not going to like it, but …”


The repeated mantra from public health officials is that modern-day parents don’t know their kids are fat and it’s up to them to point it out to us.

Let’s say they’re right and that we don’t see our kids and their friends are heftier than we were at their age. Let’s assume that we parents are oblivious to the issues of child obesity, eating disorders and body image that are canvassed daily in every newspaper, radio and TV program.

And, on that basis, because we’re idiots, why don’t we just hand over authority for our children’s health to others – even though they’re not the ones who marvel at how tall and strong our children are growing to be and cannot begin to understand how we know every inch of our children’s skin, just as well as we know our own?

We are the ones who care for our children and we worry and fret about them endlessly.

The assumption that some have less care for their children than “we” do? Because their kids weigh more?

Bad parenting comes in so many guises. It’s easy to tag excess body weight as a mass indicator of neglect, but that’s not the half of it.

This year, a study by the Australian National University found that more than 75 per cent of Australians polled want a ban on junk food during children’s TV programs.

”We’re talking about a nation that is concerned that children are particularly vulnerable and that advertising to them is somehow implicated in what’s often referred to as the epidemic of obesity,” ANU professor Stuart Lockie said.

”We get a lot of chatter from some parts of the media about the ‘nanny state’, which is feeding off people’s concern that governments intervene a bit too much. But clearly people think here is somewhere where intervention is warranted.”

That’s right, State Nanny.

You see, it’s not that we don’t want your assistance (you could start by folding the washing) but we want you to support us in helping our children to overcome all the obstacles left in our way.

Your remedy – higher taxes on fatty and sugary foods – is about as welcome and efficacious as a spoonful of castor oil.

In the end, the best thing about Mary Poppins was that she gave the Banks family a few clues, then buggered off and let them get on with it.

My favourite Mary Poppins quote?

“Never judge things by their appearance… Even carpetbags. I’m sure I never do.”




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  • Reply December 10, 2012


    They have to be joking. Surely it’s up there with the proposed arming of teachers with tasers to subdue rambunctious students.
    Teachers cop enough flak already. Imagine the reaction of some parents if Miss dared to give an “F”.
    Although in PC-speak it would probably be reworked into… working towards obesity, while finding creative outlets for the student’s leadership qualities.

  • Reply December 10, 2012

    Dirty Pierre

    You don’t know where to begin???

    But you did begin

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    We have a subject called “Physical Education”. There is a space to report on it. I have had a few children who were so obese that they could raise no more than a shuffle when asked to run. They couldn’t perform many or often any of the activities for PE or Sport.

    This does need to be reported. Sadly when carefully broached with parents they often claimed that their children were ‘big boned’…. or had a ‘metabolic problem’.

  • Reply December 10, 2012

    Dr Rick Kausman

    This idea has been doing the rounds unsuccessfully (thank goodness) for a few years now. It is usually raised by (well-meaning) academics who have little if any real experience in the challenges both adults and children have in their relationship with food, eating, weight and body image. Can’t happen if we are to help our kids.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    As someone who was born normal weight but 3 weeks prem, the battle started there and has continued unrelentingly til the present day. My childhood was difficult enough in terms of being picked on at times at school and I remember one PE teacher who actively despised me for my size. I can remember being on diets from Primary School and by early secondary school often telt like falling asleep in the afternoon as I was down to eating only one apple for lunch. I realise now that if I had accepted my weight by the time I reached my full height I would have been acceptably healthy, could have been quite fit and attractive instead of a lifetime of diets, depression and failed surgery. By the way when I was at school I used to walk most days to and from and swam in summer and played hockey in winter. If I had been subject to further humiliation at school I certainly would not be alive today as suicide would have seemed like the only option. If the focus was on getting kids to be fit and healthy eating that would be a much more positive way of approaching the issue while allowing for a variety of shapes and sizes within the context of being fit.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    The fact remains that there are a lot of overweight children. Maybe educating parents would be better than humiliating the child. They can’t help their genes of what their parents give them to eat. With the rise of so called ‘convenience’ foods this epidemic was inevitable.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    Making a childs weight available on a report card will do nothing productive for child health and is not a teachers responsibility. Last time I checked that was between the child and their child health nurse or GP.

    Printing a weight will not take into account all the other variables that are so important to a childs health. It is just a number, that without other data, is fairly useless. I will not support having a childs weight sent home on a report card. Perhaps the government would do better to fund a 10 year old health check (a 4 year old health check is available), so parents could access all data within a context that is appropriate from a healthcare professional – someone who could then actually also offer advice if it is needed or wanted.

  • Reply December 10, 2012

    chris (larksong4)

    They say f for fat I say f for fuck off! Because being fat is soooo visible it is always a target for the self rightious, those who enjoy the moral high ground and sadly for those who are malicious and spiteful.

    Do people think that parents enjoy their children being overweight, teased, judged? Of course not. These parents don’t need yet another know it all middle class government funded prick to tell them what they already know.

    Today I was privileged to move the admission of my niece as a legal practitioner. Most of those pledging their oath at the bar table were slim, gleaming young people in the prime of health and youth. They all came from families that could afford salmon steaks rather than fish fingers and it showed!

    If public health and policy wonks from the government want the answer to childhood obesity they would be better placed looking at wage rates and wage equality and ALL OF THE THINGS NOTED BY WENDY.

    Oh yes, and my niece, she was the odd one out, the one who grafted her way through law, with one child and another on the way. Not gleaming and lithe but dogged and determined. We fat people do that well.

  • Reply December 10, 2012

    anne louise

    A child’s report is a document that stays with THEM for life. I despair that educators could be so cruel as to entertain this one dimensional proposition. I don’t think we should trust our childrens’ education to people who are so heartless and ignorant of the various parts that make up the whole person.
    My darling daughter would have been given an F. In her early primary school years we were homeless for a while We had no cooking facilities, and could not afford to live near her school or my work. She spent a lot of time before and after school sitting in the car for the long journey home, so no exercise either.
    This was not her fault.
    She is still addressing this issue through counselling. Her issues with weight are regressing. I doubt that ridicule and humiliation at the hands of teachers would be of any assistance.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    Why don’t we also put other useful facts like has freckles, black hair, knobby knees, unpleasant snarl, sticking out ears, crooked nose,bad skin on the report cards? It’s no more ridiculous.

    Seriously people know how they look and they do their best with what they have. They control what they can . As adults we struggle with a our physical sleves and limitations – how are kids expected to do better? Kids who have little control over their diet in many cases anyway…

    This is a stupid idea. Telling me I’m short won’t make me any taller but it will make me feel self-conscious. How is this any different?

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    came on australia have you gone mad ,do you want to see more children taking their own lives

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    In comparison adults who are taking the right steps and go to, for example, Weight Watchers do not have their weight spoken of out loud! It’s private business, and as an ex WW employee, rule one was do not say the numbers out loud. Members could discuss their own weight numbers, but staff could not.
    Putting that number on report cards is like advertising it to the closest community to the child, family, teachers and school mates would all know (of course this info is shared!!) But for what? Are the teachers going to police their students food intake and do the shopping for the family, and enroll the kids in after school sports!!!??
    If they must do weight at school, could they not separate it from the report card, and be discrete and involve the people who cook and buy food for the children as well??
    Parents and kids could go to healthy eating classes together at school maybe??
    The kids might be fat but they don’t do all the food shopping, they don’t cook all the meals and plan all the family activities and buy all the passive computer games – parents are not only to blame for the problem but need constructive support to fix the problem!
    Don’t humiliate the kids, that won’t help the parents sort the problem out!

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    I was a fat kid, I’m a fat adult and my mother was merciless in her criticism of my weight. Her last phone call to me before she died she asked how much I weighed. This would have been all she needed: more ammunition provided by my school.
    The kind, supportive parents don’t need this information and the nasty parents don’t need it either.
    If schools really want to do something perhaps they could provide free voluntary weight watchers meetings at lunch times and instead of making sport competitive at school they could provide an exercise program that taught kids how to stay fit for life. Surely 20 minutes of aerobics (or the modern equivalent) and a bit of yoga would be of more benefit that this idea.
    I am over 50 and this idea provoked an actual physical response in me when I first read it. I can only imagine how my younger self would have felt the day before, the week before or the month before weigh in day.
    Good for you for speaking out against it,Wendy.

  • Reply December 10, 2012

    mudhouse jane

    Why not link teacher salaries to the mean weight of the children in their care? Certain groups in the community expect teachers to be accountable and responsible every time a child blinks, so I am just following a logical train of thought here…
    The good doctor you have quoted has obviously been at the happy gas again. I can just imagine what life would be like in my classroom if this was introduced; no change whatsoever, as this is one thing I will never do.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    If you are serious about nutrition for school children, provide healthy school meals. Why shame people for being poor. Is Penington a gym-rat?

    Isn’t David Penington aware that obesity is more prevalent amonst the lower socio economic classes who have to eat cheap food. A trip through a supermarket will show him that cheap food is energy dense. I like my food. I was shocked to learn that the local fish & chip sold a large tray of chips with gravy for $2 and that was my neighbours daily meal.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    A stupid idea to record weight by bare statistics. What someone “weighs” does not,per se, determine their health. I am in my mid-fifties. I remember a phys. ed class where we were asked to do some physical things, and then also had our height, and our fat rolls measured. I am not sure where this information went to. I get the need for studies of population health but feel a notion of reporting every kid’s weight shows a distinct lack of fine-tuning~ both for under, and over-weight kids compared with their normative peers.

  • Reply December 10, 2012


    Blah! Ridiculous! I have just finished reporting for my class and there are many strands in PDHPE to report on – healthy lifestyle being one of them. Report poor choices here with words not numerals. Hate the idea with a passion and if it was me being reported on, I would have wagged on weigh in day!

  • Reply December 11, 2012


    Just one little thing; what would be the point in banning junk food ads during children’s TV shows when it is the parents who would be buying this food?
    Anyway, I agree with The Huntress that a health check at 10 years as well as four would be much more preferable to the weight on your child’s report card. Then the doctor/nurse could actually give advice on getting to a healthy state if the child was not in one.
    And higher GST on junk food won’t work it will just get more people in to poverty and debt and still obese!
    Education from an early age and a bit of discretion please.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    I strongly agree but with a slightly different slant. Check out my blog. – my latest post

  • Reply December 14, 2012

    Mel B

    It shouldn’t be up to the teachers to tell a student or their family that they are overweight. They are there to teach and mentor, the students. Leave the ‘weight’ talk to the families or the doctors.

  • Reply December 14, 2012


    Are they serious !!!! No way would I allow my child to be weighed. I’d be protesting outside the school gate.

    And where do teachers weigh in because I assume it would mean no fat teachers would be employed or children will notice the double standard.

    Bloody hell.

  • Reply January 29, 2013


    When I was 8 I contracted Rheumatic Fever and was in bed for nearly 2 years a lot of it in Hospital where I was fed mostly carbs as that was the way to sweat out the fever in those days. When I recovered I was fat and had to put up with being called Porky for the rest of Primary School. I eventually lost the weight in my teens but have never forgotten the cruel taunts I suffered.
    This idea is so wrong. Not all children are fat from over indulgance.

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