Obese students should not be forced to attend sports lessons because it lowers their self-esteem, an Australian study says. Instead, overweight children should be allowed to play sport in special classes away from their slimmer peers, the Sydney University report urged. And they might be better taught by teachers who had a weight problem of their own, it suggested. The findings followed a survey of 450 children aged 11 to 14 at two Sydney schools. One of the report's authors, Jennifer O'Dea, said overweight children often became trapped in a vicious cycle, refusing to exercise because they felt they were poor at traditional sports. But given the option of pursuing sport away from their more athletic counterparts, most of the fatter youngsters were in favour of the idea. 'They didn't want to do it with skinny girls and boys and skinny teachers,' Ms O'Dea said. The report concluded that overweight children had lower self-esteem than their thinner classmates. Boys in particular were liable to be more pessimistic about their prospects of finding a job if they were on the chubby side. The study recommended one answer could be a special sports curriculum for overweight pupils, allowing them to walk, dance or even skateboard. While this would require more teaching effort, the benefits could be significant, the study suggested.