“The children aren’t fit” were the words put to Elaine Wyllie, the head teacher of St Ninians primary school, four years ago.
Her response was to send a class of year six pupils to run around a field for 15 minutes a day, whatever the weather, and that’s how The Daily Mile was born.
Today, the scheme – which was started in 2012- is used by more than 2000 schools in the UK, while there have also been national launches in Belgium and Holland.
“When we first started (The Daily Mile), by halfway the children were exhausted and had to stop,” said Wyllie, who was at Saltburn Primary School on Friday.
“By the end of the first spring term (four years ago) five classes were doing The Daily Mile and by the end of the summer all twelve classes were taking part.
“The improvements on the children’s physical health were obvious and we could have predicted that. What we didn’t see coming were the other equally important benefits to their mental, emotional and social health and wellbeing which have become apparent over time.”
According to figures from the Health & Social Care Information Centre, one in 10 children are obese when they start school at the age of four or five.
At St Ninians, where The Daily Mile began, none of the children are overweight anymore and Wyllie, who is now retired and dedicates her time encouraging schools to endorse The Daily Mile, is confident of achieving similar results elsewhere.
Saltburn are one of the many schools which have adopted The Daily Mile, thanks to their year six teacher, Rachel Wills, who heard about the scheme earlier this year.
The primary school has been running The Daily Mile since April and it is now embedded into the children’s timetables.
Joining Wyllie at Saltburn School was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who gave everyone an inspirational insight into her distinguished career during a morning assembly.
The 11-time Paralympic gold medallist then joined the children on their daily run around the school field.
“The Daily Mile is great because anybody can do it and it is about building up that fitness over time,” said Grey-Thompson, who is now a Board Member of several organisations including the London Marathon.
“It (The Daily Mile) is not this impossible task, like saying you’ve got to go and run a half marathon or you’ve got to do a training session. I think a mile is something that everybody can do and it doesn’t matter what age you are, the clear majority of people can do it.
“Something like The Daily Mile allows children to see that they’re getting better at something, and they can see that they’re getting fitter and stronger which is a huge motivation for them,” she added.
The Daily Mile doesn’t require children to bring any kit so no time is lost getting changed. It doesn’t matter if it’s windy or raining, it will still take place unless the conditions are dangerous.
In the 15 minutes allocated for The Daily Mile, more than 80 per cent of children aged between four and 11 will run at least a mile.
The aim of the scheme is to improve the physical, emotional and social health and wellbeing of children – regardless of age or personal circumstances.