Teachers often complain about being made to solve all of society’s ills, when all they really want to do is inspire their pupils with a love of maths or science. Trouble is, school really is the only place that the state can get the nation’s young people all in one place. So whether staff like it or not, there will always be a presumption that some of the bigger nanny-state projects will involve schools.
The Daily Mile – a UK-wide project which encourages schools to get children running a mile a day – is one that might provoke sighs of dismay from hard-pressed teachers. As if it wasn’t enough to cram Sats results perfection, a range of arts and sports, anti-bullying and anti-racism messages, healthy-eating classes, recycling awareness and “resilience building” activities into the day. Now we have to take them out jogging as well?
But, as a parent worried about the downward trajectory of the nation’s fitness, I think this can only be a good thing. The Chinese have collective exercises before class and don’t question it. It’s not like running costs anything and it only takes around 15 minutes of time.
All children – whatever their ability – should be able to get out there and take part. And schools and pupils should think of ways for disabled pupils to take part too, everyone can have a go.
This project has been called a “fad” by some, which fails to address our obesogenic (great word) culture of computer games, cars and trash-stuffed cut-priced supermarkets. But these things aren’t going anywhere fast and I think it can really work to get the nation fitter and moving again. Striking early, in primary school, with a compulsory daily 15 minutes of running could transform the country. Obviously, it could be a whole different ball game in secondary, but if it is ingrained early enough, I believe pupils will carry it on into their teens.
At my son’s school the outing is currently optional – I don’t think it should be as this means it is often restricted to the children who are fit already – but it is a great start. Schools shouldn’t be afraid to make it compulsory. At a young age, when children run without thinking about its hardships, all will take part (and those with mobility issues should be helped to do as much as they can).
My constant refrain over childhood obesity and the decline in sports participation is that far too much is optional (in the form of afterschool clubs) now…the daily run has to become as normal as lunch or playtime or assembly and then it could really work.
The participating schools are keen to vaunt the success of the Daily Mile as boosting academic results. I don’t think this is necessary and you could be wandering into the pseudo-science territory to make such claims.
It is enough that young people are out there, getting fitter every day, without even really having to think about it.
Schools obviously need to be encouraged and supported to instigate the Daily Mile, and find ways to minimise it impacting on teaching time…and governments and councils need to give it their wholehearted support.
Given that it involves no special extra resources, they are missing a trick if they don’t.