Baroness Jenkin: The Daily Mile initiative should be introduced to schools nationally
Today, Baroness Jenkin will be asking the Health Minister to work with The Daily Mile to promote and deliver the initiative to schools nationally.
Knowing of my interest in and concern about childhood obesity, having recently chaired a year long enquiry for the Centre for Social Justice a few weeks ago, I was approached Elaine Wyllie, former primary school headteacher from Scotland and founder of The Daily Mile (TDM)
Initially, like many others, I naively thought that the solution to the obesity epidemic was more or less a question of eating less and exercising more. It is sadly more complex than that. I am well aware that you can’t outrun a bad diet.
Think about your happiest childhood memories. What are they? For me, even though not a sporty kid, they involve being outside, running, playing, climbing trees. I bet it’s the same for you.
The fact is that children are designed to run. You don’t see small children walking. Sadly today you are more likely to see children strapped into buggies for hours on end, in front of a tablet, with a bottle of sugary, teeth rotting juice and a sausage roll sometimes called a Greggs dummy, to keep them quiet.
Six years ago (February 2012) Mrs Wyllie asked a class of ten year olds to run round the school playing field. By halfway round many children were exhausted and had to stop. Most of them were completely unfit and they recognised it themselves. She sat down to discuss it with them and they agreed to run around the field for 15 minutes (which turned out to be more or less a mile) every day to see what level of fitness they could achieve after a month.
The results were remarkable. The children looked better, felt better, were much fitter and, although she didn’t foresee it then, the equally important benefits to their mental, emotional and social health and wellbeing became apparent over time. The barriers to participation in physical activity are removed.
The qualitative assessment, has been further underpinned by academic research. In April 2016, 76 youngsters at Coppermill Primary School in Walthamstow were monitored during their Daily Mile. Again, the results were remarkable, with the study finding that the children who ran The Daily Mile performed up to 25 per cent higher than expected in reading, writing and mathematics.
The Daily Mile is a wholly simple, universally valuable intervention that – in this time of austerity – costs nothing. It has stood the test of time and has been adopted by thousands of schools and nurseries across the UK and beyond. TDM has partnered with ITV for a year long campaign to persuade every primary school in the UK to take it up.
Today I shall be asking the Health Minister to work with TDM to promote and deliver the initiative to schools nationally. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have written to every single primary school urging them to try TDM and here in England we should do the same. Alongside the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Department for Culture, Media and Sport to encourage schools to take up the initiative and achieve cross-departmental goals.
After all, what have we got to lose?
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington is a Conservative member in the House of Lords.