Daily Mile gets PS1.5m to boost fitness in English primary schools
The scheme aims to help improve child fitness and reduce obesity. Photograph: Andrew Aitchison/In Pictures via Getty Images
The Daily Mile, the back-to-basics fitness initiative for schoolchildren, has received a £1.5m cash injection from Sport England, which hopes to spread the word about it to every primary school in England.
The national lottery money represents the biggest expansion of the scheme which began six years ago with children at a primary school in Stirling running five laps round the playing field. It is now a regular fixture at 3,500 schools in England and for 1.25 million children worldwide.
The funding will pay for 11 local and two national co-ordinators to bring more of England’s 20,000 primary schools on board, with the aim of helping to improve child fitness and reduce obesity.
Elaine Wyllie, the former headteacher of St Ninians in Stirling where the Daily Mile originated, was at Ladypool primary school in Birmingham on Monday to celebrate the new investment by Sport England. “This will put rocket boosters under it,” she said.
“It’s absolutely incredible. I can hardly take it in. To have the big tick from Sport England is amazing. They are going to help us roll it out and try and reach every child in England. I’m kind of overwhelmed.”
Wyllie, who retired after 40 years as a teacher, began the fitness drive after noticing that children in a year-five class were exhausted after being asked to do a moderate warm up. “I had often thought, why don’t children just run round the field to get fit?”
So she started her pupils on a 15-minute run every day – no change of clothes was necessary, no expensive equipment. “Very quickly it became evident they loved it. They were more focused in class, more content, more settled, and looking better. After a month they were keen to keep going.”
Sport England became involved after its survey earlier this month revealed that a third of children in England are doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Children from the poorest families are more likely to be less active.
Sport England’s chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, said: “It’s the strongest evidence yet that not enough is being done to support our youngsters, and change is needed if we’re to increase activity levels.
“Through getting schoolchildren to walk or run for 15 minutes every day, the Daily Mile has been proven to significantly improve fitness levels. We want to take the initiative to even more primary schools across the county to improve the health of thousands more children.”
Wyllie said she was delighted that more children were going to get the chance to join in and enjoy the benefits. “It’s free – all day and every day. There’s no cost. It’s inclusive of all – girls and boys, children with special educational needs. There are no under-represented groups,” she said.
“On that day back in 2012 we stumbled on a partial solution to help children’s physical and mental health and well-being. This is just about children and childhood.”