‚It makes children fit to be children‘

Source: The Guernsey Press & Star

Date: 19-February-2018

Can the childhood obesity crisis be tackled by something as simple as a daily 15-minute jog? A Scottish initiative dubbed The Daily Mile has proved so successful it’s been rolled out in schools in 30 countries, including Guernsey, and now even local businesses are getting involved. Former headteacher Elaine Wyllie, who came up with the idea, found it improved the health and wellbeing of her pupils way beyond her expectations. Katie Whitford met her.

One woman’s idea to improve the health and fitness of children is so simple and easy to implement it’s staggering that every school isn’t already doing it.

It’s called The Daily Mile and all it involves is getting children to jog or run for 15 minutes each day.

Former headteacher Elaine Wyllie came up with the idea after comparing modern youngsters with the children of the 1960s, who ran about, walked to school, played outside all day and roamed freely. There were no risk assessments, they stayed out all day and came home for tea. Childhood obesity was almost non-existent. She concluded that fresh air, fun, friends and freedom were a winning combination – and this had also been the seed of an idea for her.

Around 15 years ago Elaine saw an article about the prevalence of overweight and sedentary children and wondered to herself why on earth the children couldn’t be encouraged to run around the park each day? She assumed this must have been considered and dismissed, or they would all be doing it by now.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Elaine was observing an active assembly in her primary school, St Ninian’s. A volunteer helper stated, bluntly, ‚they are not fit, are they, Elaine?‘ She spoke with the PE teacher who agreed that, yes, the children were mostly out-of-breath after just the warm-up. So, she took the Year 5 outside to see what they could do.

‚It was a shocking sight,‘ she admits. ‚I watched with mounting dismay.‘ What she saw was a group of unfit children, doubled-up and stuck. And what happened next changed everything. The following day they sat down, together, and talked about what was happening, and the children agreed that it was ‚pretty bad‘.

‚So, how keen are we to do something about it?‘ She asked them. It was an epiphany for Elaine and, most importantly, for the children, who took ownership of the issue from the start.

It was a cold Scottish February and the class did a four-week trial of jogging or running for 15 minutes outside each day. It was far too cold to get changed into kit, and this would turn out to be serendipitous as it helped keep things really simple. Elaine expected it to go under the radar as a lot of children don’t like PE or cross-country. ‚But something amazing happened,‘ she explains. ‚They made The Daily Mile their own, setting themselves challenges, doing extra laps. They became happier, more focus in class and their behaviour in class improved.‘

In four short weeks, Elaine was seeing a class of apple-cheeked children, out-of-breath (in a good way), cheery and glowing with health, as children should. From one class, on it went. Other classes and parents in the school became curious and wanted to be a part of what was happening. By the summer all 15 classes in the school were doing The Daily Mile and by the autumn the nursery children were doing it too. The children of St Ninian’s got fitter and fitter.

One of the strengths of The Daily Mile is that it is non-competitive and totally inclusive – irrespective of age, ability or disability. A spin-off consequence of all this improved fitness was that the school was, all of a sudden, winning all the athletics competitions. Nationally, in very difficult cross-country competitions they had four or five team golds.

‚For one year,‘ says Elaine, ‚we watched it become something amazing, and then we started to tell our community that we had something special.‘ It was now 2015 and the media became interested. ‚Unbelievably,‘ Elaine explains, ‚I was named Pride of Britain Teacher of the Year and that helped get it out there.‘ Soon, other schools and local authorities became interested.

Just two years on from that point, and industrial quantities of children are now getting measurably fitter thanks to Elaine’s simple initiative. Scotland wants to become the first Daily Mile Nation and over half a million children are now doing The Daily Mile in 30 countries around the world.

So, how does it work? In Elaine’s words, it’s ‚completely and utterly simple.‘ Therein lies its success. The 15 minutes can be slotted into the school day virtually seamlessly – the children get up from their desks and go outside. They go out in virtually all weathers, perhaps with trainers, although these are not essential; the teacher opens the door and out they go. After the 15 minutes – which will more often than not equate to a mile (again, there is no pressure to do this), the children come back in, straight into their work. Their focus is immediately improved. They are energised and ready to learn. There is no lengthy transition from classroom to outdoors, no kit is needed and this also eliminates any body image concerns potentially linked to normal PE. It can be done anywhere, provided there is some outdoor space that is not muddy.

The reasons for The Daily Mile’s success are quite complex, but why do the children love it so much? According to Elaine, there are short-term wins – children become fitter and happier so quickly, and there are medium-to-long-term wins in terms of better behaviour and confidence, self-esteem and resilience. Running every day becomes the norm and they are able to get fit in just four weeks. For teachers it couldn’t be easier to implement. It’s free, it’s accessible and sustainable – from the toddler years upwards. ‚It’s utter common sense in a very complex environment,‘ says Elaine. One that is dictated by planning, assessment and workload. ‚It’s one for the kids and one for the teachers … It’s the switch that you throw.‘

The results and potential for everyone are startling. The rate of obesity in St Ninian’s children has become half that of Scotland’s children as a whole.

‚It makes children fit to be children‘ she says. She explains that 66% of children don’t have a sufficient level of fitness to play hide and seek and simply be children. Elaine is waiting on statistics for adults but nobody can deny that we need to get an inactive population moving more. How is it that such a high proportion of our national cohort of children can be so unfit?

‚I can hardly believe I’m saying these words,‘ she says, incredulously, ‚but the Scottish Government thinks it will impact on the NHS … that it will help bring down the huge burden that obesity and inactivity brings.‘ They are excited because The Daily Mile needs no kit, no cost, ’no nothing‘.

In 2015, The Daily Mile Foundation was established with the quiet support of wealthy industrialist, INEOS chairman and runner, Jim Ratcliffe, and this has helped to spread The Daily Mile initiative into 30 countries so far.

It is now catching on with all manner of organisations not just schools. Scottish Power is rolling it out to their employees, while in Guernsey staff at Specsavers have started trialling the idea. Other organisations include care homes, colleges, nurseries, public service employees and some in the private sector. Ten Guernsey schools have adopted the scheme so far, slotting the routine into their daily timetables.

Elaine adds that the secret of its success is that the children own it and they are the best implementation partner of all. ‚All children are given an equal opportunity with The Daily Mile. It closes the inequality gap and the health gap and gives a healthier life expectancy. It’s such a simple concept. The Daily Mile is a quick win for schools but is for absolutely everyone.‘

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the content creator, The Guernsey Press & Star (Main). 

Lofty the Lion celebrates the launch of ‚The Daily Mile‘ in Bolton primary school

Source: NHS Bridgewater Community Healthcare

Date: 02-February-2018

Bolton Wanderers‘ mascot Lofty the Lion visited Moorgate Primary School on Wednesday 24th January to join teachers, pupils and Bolton’s Family Healthy Lifestyles Team to launch ‚The Daily Mile‘ initiative at the school.

The Daily Mile is a free and simple physical activity which encourages children to run or jog outside for 15 minutes every day in their nursery or primary school, which benefits their fitness, attainment and, wider health and wellbeing.

Bolton’s Healthy Lifestyles Team is supporting the initiative at Moorgate Primary School and is encouraging other schools across the town to take up The Daily Mile to get fit for life and fit for learning.

Gemma Holdsworth, Family Healthy Lifestyles Coach in the team, which is run by Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said:

„We are delighted to be supporting Moorgate Primary School to improve the health and wellbeing of their pupils and families. Currently 79% of boys and 84% of girls aged 5-15 years are not meeting national physical activity guidelines of a minimum of 60 active minutes per day, of which 30 minutes should be provided by school. The Daily Mile helps schools not only achieve this target but it also provides fantastic benefits for both pupils and teachers.“

“It takes just 15 minutes out of the school day and can improve children’s focus, self-confidence, fitness and mental wellbeing. We want more schools to follow Moorgate and participate.”

Moorgate Primary School Headteacher Debbie Hopwood said:

“We are happy to be one of the first schools in the local area to embrace the benefits, both physically and mentally of The Daily Mile.”

Acting Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Linda Thomas, also added:

“The Daily Mile is a simple but effective way of getting children involved in some form of physical activity. Not only does it encourage them to be active, it also helps to set them up for a day of learning and is good fun!”

The Daily Mile is just one of the initiatives being promoted by The Family Healthy Lifestyles Team in Bolton.

The team supports local schools to implement effective and tailored healthy lifestyle initiatives that are suited to the needs of local children.

The needs of each school are identified through the school’s health profile which uses up to date information and data to build a realistic picture of the health of the school community.

To make the initiatives as successful as possible, The Family Healthy Lifestyles Team has an ongoing partnership with Bolton Wanderers Community Trust to help motivate and inspire local children on their journey to becoming healthier.

Katie Wells from Bolton Wanderers Community Trust explains:

“Partnership work helps to contribute towards the aims of our Premier League Primary Stars programme and helps children to reach their goals and realise their potential. We are delighted to be working with Bolton’s Family Healthy Lifestyles Team to provide school assemblies that encourage the younger generation to get active. The joint approach is allowing us to instil healthy habits at an early stage, creating a healthier future for the people of Bolton. We are looking forward to the upcoming work with the team.”

Find out more about the excellent work of Bolton’s Healthy Lifestyles Team at www.bridgewater.nhs.uk/bolton/childrens-healthy-weight-team.

This press release has been reproduced with the kind permission of the content creator, NHS Bridgewater Community Healthcare. To continue reading, please click the link below.

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St. Polycarp’s Catholic Primary School – Surrey, England

St. Polycarp’s Catholic Primary School

Fact File

  • Where we’re based: Farnham, Surrey in England.
  • School roll: 420 students
  • Month/Year we started The Daily Mile: October 2015

Mrs Karen Trafford, Deputy Head, talks us through St. Polycarp’s Catholic Primary School’s experience of The Daily Mile, thus far.

A brief description of your school?

A two form entry Catholic Primary School, situated in an affluent market town with pockets of deprivation.

How many, and which, children in your school complete The Daily Mile?

The whole school, including the two reception classes.

Where do you run your Daily Mile?

We have two running areas:

  1. The perimeter of our KS2 playground
  2. An all-weather running path – laid around our field in October 2015 using Sports Premium funding

Since starting The Daily Mile, what differences in the school have you observed?

Our experience of The Daily Mile has been outstanding. All children are physically fitter, as can be seen in-part from the tables of data below:

Other evidence that the children are physically fitter was provided by evidence gained from a district event. Our children take part in a district cross country race with fourteen schools every Spring and Autumn term. Some of the schools participating are four form entry. In early October 2015, we didn’t win any trophies but in March 2016 we won the Girls‘ Individual Race and one of our boys was second in the Boys‘ Individual Race. Our younger KS2 children beat lots of Y5 and Y6 children from other schools.

Our PE coaches and teachers also found them to be physically stronger in PE and games lessons, and having far more stamina. An additional benefit is that some of the teachers and TA’s choose to take part in The Daily Mile are also reporting increased levels of fitness.

Celebrating running the distance to Rio with Duncan Goodhew

What has been the impact on the children’s learning, concentration and focus?

The teachers have found that the children are far more focused, especially directly after their Daily Mile. Teachers choose to complete their Daily Mile between two heavy academic sessions, such as Maths and English, or after an assembly where they have been sitting still for a length of time, or before the afternoon registration to ‚wake them up‘ for the period of the day where they are often flagging.

Our SAT results were very good in 2016 and one former Y6 student, Francesca, was quoted saying: „I think I did as well in my SAT’s as I did, because of the daily run.“ (Her dedicated teachers might question that, but that was her opinion!) When asked why she thought that, she responded: „My mind always feels fresh after the run and I can concentrate better.“

What has been the impact on the children’s behaviour, mood and relationships?

We have found that our school is a calmer place. ‚Wriggly‘ children and those with identified behaviour needs have really benefited from the exercise and release of tension that comes with running free. When losing concentration or feeling frustrated, some children ask to do an additional Daily Mile.

Jeremy Hunt and Duncan Goodhew join St. Polycarp’s students on their Daily Mile.

Can you tell us about any successful links you have made between The Daily Mile and your curriculum?

Our teachers have used The Daily Mile to help with teaching in other areas.

In Math, children have gained a better idea of the perimeter of an area. They also use the tracks for measuring exercises and the personal best data for statistical analysis, graphs and percentages.

In English, it has given the children a direct experience to write and has been particularly good for developing persuasive writing.

It has improved the whole school’s Geography as we’ve „Run to Rio“ and run to a variety of exotic destinations across the globe.

Art projects have also been linked to The Daily Mile, where the children have created running models from a variety of materials.

In Science, the children have measured their pulse before and after The Daily Mile and looked at the benefits of exercise on the body.

We have also used The Daily Mile to help us with our healthy eating push. The children now want to eat healthily in order to improve their Daily Mile personal bests. It has also helped us to gain our Healthy Schools Awards and Surrey Sports Active Goldmark.

The children doing their ‚Run to Rio‘
The children’s ‚Run to Rio‘ artwork

Any other comments?


Another bonus is that we have used it as a teaching tool for both The Daily Mile and in other lessons. Even our 4 year olds can describe what it takes to be resilient. Teachers have found this understanding has impacted on the effort children make in class and their confidence in accepting challenges.

Mental Health

Teachers also think it has a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of the children. The self-esteem of the children has really grown, they love to share their improved personal bests with their teachers, peers and families.

The children who struggled to run a lap of the playground initially were overjoyed when they managed to complete their first mile and you could ’see‘ them grow in confidence before your eyes. Some parents have said it has reduced stress and anxiety in their children. Many parents report it is helping their children to sleep better.

The teachers find they can run alongside children and talk to those who have problems or they might not usually have time to engage with.

Any feedback from parents, the school or teachers?

The parents are totally on board with The Daily Mile and continue to show real enthusiasm for the project. Here are just a selection of quotes from the emails parents have sent:

„I thought it was a fabulous idea and such a simple, common sense, way to enrich children’s lives in so many ways.“

„My children… are sleeping much better and for longer than before they started running every day.“

„I just wanted to say that we think ‚Run a Mile project‘ is a great idea. Well done for all involved setting this up.“

Due to the buzz of parents and children about The Daily Mile within the local community, other schools have approached us to help them set it up in their schools; as have PTA’s and other education authorities been in touch. All Hallows Secondary School that most of our children feed to also adopted The Daily Mile in September 2016, so the impact won’t be lost as they move on.

Karen Trafford, Deputy Head of St. Polycarp’s Catholic Primary School – „The school daily running bug is spreading because it is so simple to organise within a primary school setting and has such a positive impact on the children’s physical and mental wellbeing. Additionally, teachers are reporting that the children’s ability to focus on learning and accept challenges has been increased as a direct result of the regular running within the school day.“


Visit St. Polycarp’s Catholic Primary School’s website for more information