Nurseries and pre-schools should not be afraid to allow children to take “safe” risks that will help keep them fit and physically active, a senior Ofsted official has warned.

Gill Jones, the watchdog’s deputy director of early education, said there is a “tension between physical activity and being safe”.

Inspectors are not routinely seeing children that are “getting out of breath”, she argued, adding that there is a clear discrepancy between the proportion of youngsters that are considered to be performing well in their physical development by age five, and childhood obesity levels.

She acknowledged that nurseries and pre-schools need to find a balance between keeping parents, who do not want to see their child upset, content, and encouraging children to take risks, according to Nursery World.

Her remarks at a conference last week come after Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said she was concerned about the creation of “overly risk-free environments” and that young children need to be able to “run around until they are exhausted”.

Ms Jones told the event that figures on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – which measures children’s progress in different areas up to age five – show that around 90% of youngsters score well against the early learning goal for physical development, Nursery World reported.

But she added: “Yet, you put that against the levels of childhood obesity, which is also measured at the age of five, and they don’t match at all.”