Super-sized school uniforms are flying off the shelves as retailers are forced to contend with Lancashire’s growing number of overweight children.
One of the country’s leading uniform manufacterers Trutex, which is based in Clitheroe, is specially making blazers with a 56 inch chest – a whopping 16 sizes bigger than the average adult size.
Staff at Preston-based uniform providers Monkhouse said they have seen an explosion in sizes in recent years as latest figues show almost one in five 10-year-olds are now obese.
Experts fear the issue will lead to future psychological problems, shorter life expectancies and diabetes.
Trevor Bailey, manager at Monkhouse in Fishergate Shopping Centre, said: “This is the first year we have gone so high with sizes, certainly in school uniforms in the Preston area.
“The standard stock only goes up to 48-inch but this year we’ve had to specially order sizes up to 52 inches.”
As well as supersized blazers the shop has also sold trousers with a 36-inch waist the children as young as 10.
Mr Bailey said: “This year we have sold quite a few swim shorts for one particular school in a 34-inch waist whereas normally we would be selling 28-inch.”
A spokesman for Clitheroe-based school uniform supplier, Trutex, said increased demand has forced them to drive up the size of their product lines.
They said: “We work closely with our retailers, and over the last few years they’ve been advising us that parents are now often asking for bigger sizes of the garments we manufacture.
“As a result we have extended the options, across all our ranges, at the higher end of the sizing spectrum.”
Trutex also said it had supplied special “one-off garments” to order, adding: “We are a specialist schoolwear supplier, and therefore feel we have a responsibility to ensure that every child in a school supplied by Trutex has uniform, no matter what shape or size.
“We have been able to achieve this by making on-off garments to order, for example producing blazers up to a 56-inch chest.
“We are also now, however, increasing the sizes within our stock ranges, garments that are available off the shelf, from our factory in Clitheroe.
“Two years ago for example we added boy’s shirts in collar sizes 18 1/2-inch and 19-inch to our stock lines, after our sales data and feedback from our retailers indicated that demand for these sizes was increasing.
“We have a couple of prices for our blazers but as you can imagine, a 24-inch chest uses considerably less fabric than a 54-inch chest, which is our biggest stock size.
“We do not charge any additional however if a parent wants a 56-inch or a 58-inch. As long as its ordered as part of the customer’s forward order, it’s the same price as the standard stock sizes.
“We don’t feel children should be penalised for needing bigger sizes.”
The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), that measures the height and weight of around one million school children in England every year, has found that 18.9 per cent of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) were obese and a further 14.4 per cent are overweight.
Of children in reception (aged 4-5), 9.3 per cent were obese and another 13 per cent are overweight. This means almost a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year -olds are overweight or obese.
County Coun Lorraine Beavers, lead member for health, said: “Obesity is an issue in Lancashire as it is elsewhere in the country.
“The number of year six pupils in Lancashire who are classed as obese is lower than the national average. However, there is still work to do and reducing the number of children and young people who are overweight or obese is one of our priorities.
“We hope to do this by continuing to encourage mums to breastfeed, encouraging uptake of school meals, and promoting physical activity both within and outside schools.
“The county council’s children’s centres are playing an important role – they all have access to the Healthy Heroes resources and many have achieved the Be Active Eat Healthy Award.
“We encourage schools to teach healthy eating, promote walking to school and provide extra-curricular activities such as cooking clubs.
“We also want to make the healthy option the easier option for people through the introduction of schemes such as Sustainable Food Lancashire.”
Nationally 34.2 per cent of year six children were classed as overweight or obese in 2012/13. In Lancashire, that figure was 32.4 per cent.