daily-mileIn September 2016, commissioned by Public Health Sutton, Sutton Schools Sport Partnership launched ‘The Daily Mile’ in all schools across the Borough. A local GP, Dr Farhan Rabbani had already presented this idea to Primary Head teachers earlier in the year, as a way of starting to address the ever-growing obesity epidemic that is gripping our country. There are now at least 25 schools engaged with the hope that this will increase by the end of the year.

The idea behind The Daily Mile initiative is simple: children walk, jog or run outside in the fresh air for 15 minutes every day in school, at a time of the class teacher’s choosing. There’s no kit, no fuss, and no hidden costs – PLUS it has been proven to have far-reaching benefits to children’s physical, mental, social and emotional health and wellbeing. To find out more about this free initiative, and access some useful free resources to help you get started, visit: www.thedailymile.co.uk.

Daily physical activity has a broad range of health and educational benefits including reduced weight, improved emotional wellbeing, enhanced concentration, behaviour and cognitive skills.  Obesity is of particular concern in Sutton – we are seeing staggering increases in the number of children who are overweight when they start primary school and this trend worsens by Year 6. The impact this has on adult health is gravely concerning as overweight children are significantly more likely to become overweight and unhealthy adults. The Daily Mile is one simple, free way we can try and reverse this national trend.

The Daily Mile was founded in St. Ninians Primary School in Stirling, Scotland, when former head teacher Elaine Wyllie discovered that her children were quite unfit. Having run successfully for 4 years in the original school, the initiative has critically shown to be sustainable; loved by pupils, parents and staff alike! The initiative has had extremely positive results and is now spread far and wide – with over 1,500 Daily Mile schools in the UK alone. Within just 4 weeks transformative changes to the children’s health and wellbeing have been observed.

If your school is already doing the Daily Mile, make sure you register your participation to add your schools’ pin to the interactive map of the movement: www.thedailymile.co.uk/participation-map.

Founder Elaine Wyllie says….

“The Daily Mile which is 100% inclusive is loved by children, staff and parents and this is why it has been sustained for 4 years.  It’s completely simple to implement in a school or nursery setting and has proven benefits for the physical, social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing of all children”

On Tuesday 15 November we visited Dorchester Primary School to take a look and join in with their Daily Kilometre. We were joined by Councillor Wendy Mathys, Sutton West, Liberal Democrat, Chair, Children, Family and Education Committee, Councillor Richard Marston, Worcester Park, Liberal Democrat, James Yallop, Senior Commissioner and Specialist in Children’s Public Health

London Borough of Sutton, Dr Farhan Rabbani, GP Partner, Wallington Medical Centre NHS Sutton CCG, plus a Dorchester Primary School Governor, Hugh Burne.

Head Teacher Deborah Damestani welcomed us all, explained how it worked on their site, donned her trainers and joined in with the children. Her totally positive outlook has made the whole school crave their daily 15 minutes. She said ‘behaviour has definitely improved, and there has been increased participation in extra-curricular activities’. Sam Birch, PE Coordinator and Yr3 Teacher lead our group onto the playground and managed the morning, explaining that teachers do not normally run to a timetable, but as we were there they had programmed it in so we could see lots of activity.

He added ‘Children seem a lot more attentive when they have run, if they miss a day, you certainly notice the difference.’ Although parents haven’t officially been surveyed he knows of at least one girl who has started running at the weekends with her mum.

The whole school trialled it in the summer term 2016 doing it just once a week. When they returned to school in September, footprints had been marked out around their school and they began immediately.

Staff are told they can go out at any time during the day when they feel the children could do with a break. Children can change their shoes but most don’t and all staff join in, encouraging the children round the course. Twice around the course is a kilometre and sometimes the children get to do a bonus lap; in the summer they also use the field.

Many of the classes go out in the morning between phonics and literacy/handwriting as this can be a long time concentrating and they can start from any point around their course meaning there are never too many children crowding the track.

When asked whether they liked ‘The Daily Mile’, pupils’ comments ranged from ‘it’s fun’ (Lucas, Yr2), to ‘I like doing it because I’m on a football team and it makes me feel fitter’ (Mia, Yr2), to ‘It’s helped me to get faster and fitter’ (Ollie,Yr2).

When asked why she liked it, Hasti, a Year 2 pupil said ‘I like running with my friends’.

Clair Simmonds, their class teacher said ’it calms the class, it’s an extra runaround’. Asked if the class had improved, she said ‘well at first it took them 20 minutes, now it takes them 10’.

Chloe Austin, also a Year 2 teacher commented that ‘it has had a positive impact on behaviour and concentration’.

The school are planning to buy some stopwatches to start measuring times and awarding some prizes for most improved and fastest classes, but this won’t take away the underlying messages behind this very simple phenomena, exercise is necessary, fun, easy, cheap and essential to maintaining health and well-being.

It has clearly been a resounding success so far and one which will have an effect on every child and adult in this school for the rest of their lives.