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Campaign to get all primary schools in Ipswich signed up to the Daily Mile scheme

PUBLISHED: 09:17 13 October 2016 | UPDATED: 09:42 13 October 2016

The Willows Primary School in Ipswich has already taken on the Daily Mile challenge.

The Willows Primary School in Ipswich has already taken on the Daily Mile challenge.

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The Ipswich Star today launches a new campaign urging primary schools to sign up to the pioneering Daily Mile initiative which is transforming children's lives.

Pupils at The Willows Primary School in Ipswich.Pupils at The Willows Primary School in Ipswich.

We want every primary headteacher to pledge to take on the scheme and get children running, jogging or walking a mile at school every day.

The Daily Mile has been credited with significantly improving children’s focus, behaviour and attainment, drastically cutting obesity levels and helping mental health issues. Some schools in Ipswich have already started.

The running revolution was the brainchild of Scottish primary school headteacher Elaine Wyllie in February 2012.

She said: “I took a class out for PE and, as a warm-up, I asked them to run round the field. Most of them could barely get half way before they were exhausted, so we decided to do something about it.”

Now, children in every class are taken out of a lesson at different times of the day to run, jog or walk a mile every day in most weather conditions. Teachers organise a daily timetable.

“Teachers have been amazed around the country,” Mrs Wyllie said, backing the Star’s campaign.

“Children come back focused and ready to learn and the class is much more settled.

“The Daily Mile is simple to implement in the school day, and because it is simple, because the children like it, it is sustainable.

“It costs nothing, needs no equipment or training, or warm-up or warm-down, no kit or anything – it’s just out they go, walk, jog or run for 15 minutes, and back to their desks. No change of clothes. It is flexible, fits into the school day, free and doable. And children love it. That’s why it’s different from any other initiative.”

It is supported by the Scottish government, has been adopted by hundreds of schools across the UK and is now even being picked up in Holland and Belgium.

“I think that the Daily Mile is a significant antidote against the problems which ail our children – obesity, being overweight and behaviour problems,” she added.

“There is little doubt that children would feel better socially, emotionally, mentally and physically if they did the Daily Mile for a year.

“Physical activity on a daily basis is also known to raise attainment. There is plenty of science to support that.”

Her school’s obesity levels are now half that of the Scottish average.

She said: “In Scotland, 20% of Year 6 girls are obese. It was 13% at St Ninians after three-and-a-half years of the Daily Mile. And 13% of four-to-seven year old girls in Scotland are obese. It was 7% at St Ninians.”

In Suffolk, children appear to gain weight at primary school: 21% of four and five-year-olds were obese or overweight in 2014/15, a figure broadly unchanged for a decade. But 31.9% of Year 6 pupils were obese or overweight that year, which has risen from 28.8% in 2007/08.

Mrs Wyllie added: “It is not just physical – there is a mental health crisis affecting children. But the Daily Mile allows them to be children.

“No pressure. No expectation. No failure. They all succeed and enjoy it.

“It gives them a sense of freedom outdoors where they should be every day. They are not being wrapped in cotton wool. They are out in the wind, light rain, sun, the cold – connecting with nature.

“It has produced transformational change in the health and wellbeing of children and I urge all Ipswich headteachers to give it a go.”

Brad Jones, Ipswich Star editor, said: “This is a simple but brilliant initiative. It not only has health and fitness benefits for children, but can improve attention levels and behaviour.

“It should be relatively simple to fit into the school day – it’s fully inclusive, the children do it in their uniforms, can walk or run, and 
the weather doesn’t have to be a barrier. And it starts to make exercise a habit. We know there are some schools in the area already doing 
the Daily Mile, but our aim is to get every primary school in Ipswich on board.

“I hope schools, parents and pupils get behind it.”

John Clough, director of Suffolk Sport, said: “The Daily Mile is a great way for students to build physical activity into their routine.

“Apart from the health benefits, there can be positive effects on concentration levels and school attainment.

“This is a great opportunity to get children active and to impart the benefits at an
early age. We encourage schools to take part in the Daily Mile and support this campaign.”

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services at Suffolk County Council, also backed the campaign, saying it would improve children’s fitness and wellbeing.

He said: “It is acknowledged that early fitness is influential to a child’s capacity to learn and is linked to academic success as this has been seen to improve levels of engagement with learning and concentration. We encourage all schools to take part in the initiative.”

The Daily Mile must be outdoors, but not on muddy fields, and performed at least three times a week. For more details and resources for headteachers, click here.

CASE STUDY

The Willows Primary School in Downing Close has already been keenly using the Daily Mile as part of its school day – and staff have already noticed the impact.

The school first started the project in June in response to concerns over the fitness of its pupils, alongside the Government drive to introduce more health and fitness initiatives to combat childhood obesity.

And the school’s teachers are given the flexibility to decide when in the day their class will tackle the mile.

Willows PE co-ordinator Andy Hobbs said: “There’s no structure to it. It’s just every day and it’s up to the teachers to decide when they take part in that – that’s the beauty of it.

“If the kids are struggling to concentrate a bit they can go out and do that and come back refreshed and refocused.”

The mile encapsulates a four-lap route around the field, with the youngsters encouraged to jog where possible, or walk the route as a breather.

And while still in the early stages of the project, the early signs are encouraging for pupils’ progress.

“I have noticed in my class they are a bit more focused and a bit more energised, and I have definitely noticed the improvement in fitness in PE lessons,” Mr Hobbs added.

The school has praised how simple it is to set up, with nothing more than a few cones around the field at the Willows – but brings so many positives including better fitness, increased concentration in class, and the chance to give children a break from the classroom.

Mr Hobbs said: “There’s so much academic pressure on children now, just the opportunity to go outside for 20 minutes and enjoy themselves is key. There’s even a lifestyle benefit – there’s always this thing about kids aren’t outside enough and spend too long on their Xboxes, and this is going some way towards tackling that.”

And the success of the school’s Daily Mile has already resulted in a running club after school and other planned sports initiatives in the pipeline.

Mr Hobbs added: “Long term it’s looking good. We are trying to improve our sports coverage and we are trying to get extra coaching and get the children access to more school competitions.”

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