Leading high street clothing retailers Next, Monsoon and George at Asda are sponsoring a national children's wear survey that kicks off next month to monitor the changing shape of the UK's children.

The project, called Shape GB, is the first large-scale project to measure children across the country using 3D body scanners, and aims to measure at least 6,000 babies, boys and girls aged 4-17 this year.

"At the moment there is no comprehensive data of this magnitude for children," Richard Barnes, project director of the Shape GB national children's wear survey, told just-style.

"There's no doubt children are changing shape, but we're not sure if this is an increase in size and shape or height or both."

The project is being managed by 3D scanning specialist Select Research, which recruited 11,000 people for the last adult National Sizing Survey in 2001 and has also carried out sizing work for Marks & Spencer in which 3,500 children were measured.

The full results of the survey will only be available to participating retailers, although a summary of the initial results will be published by the end of this year or the beginning of next.

"Although there's some published data this is quite out of date," Barnes adds. "Obviously with children this is particularly acute as they're growing all the time, so within each age band you've got different heights depending on how quickly they're growing."

In fact, most retailers are still working to British Standard measurements for children's clothing from 1990 - so the project will provide a much clearer idea of what their customers look like and how sizes need to be changed to create better fitting clothes.

The results could even be as shocking as those from the 2001 UK National Sizing Survey, which showed that the average British waistline had increased by more than 6 inches since 1952, while hip and chest measurements have grown by about 1½ inches.

To date, over 250 children have already been measured by Select in a pilot study for in Birmingham and a dedicated website has been set up to allow parents to register their children for measuring.