The Daily Mile™ is a UK-wide initiative, funded by Sport England and championed by GreaterSport here in Greater Manchester. It encourages nursery and primary schools to put in place a free programme that allows children to run, jog or walk at their own pace, for just 15 minutes outdoors as part of their school day, focussing on the physical and mental health benefits this brings.
Despite launching to great success in January 2019, the covid lockdowns and restrictions prevented many schools from continuing with The Daily Mile™, which had become an integral part of the day. Many schools were keen to readopt the initiative as soon as they were able.
Jane Mechen, Deputy Headteacher at Springside Primary School, a specialist facility in Rochdale, explains how recovering The Daily Mile™ has had a hugely positive impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of the children in the school’s SEN community.
Jane says The Daily Mile™ had been firmly established at Springside Primary School before the pandemic, and they were keen to return to it as soon as possible. ‘Many of our learners were confined to their homes during the covid lockdowns, and it was hugely challenging for them,’ Jane explains. ‘Naturally, parents were wary of taking the children out in public due to their limited understanding of social distancing. Other children were unable to access the equipment and the physiotherapy they needed due to lockdown restrictions, small housing, and staffing issues. They were losing a great deal of mobility.’
Jane says The Daily Mile™ had proven a positive wellbeing initiative that was helping to regulate the children after an often-challenging journey to school. ‘Many of our children have long journeys sitting on school buses, which presents difficulties for their personal needs,’ she explains. ‘Some exercise on arrival at school really regulates them and gets them ready to go into class and learn, so recovering The Daily Mile™ as soon as possible was crucial.’
‘One of the reasons we’ve found The Daily Mile™ to be so successful for us is because it caters so well to the widespread ability levels and needs of our children,’ says Jane. ‘Many of our learners have profound, and multiple, physical and learning difficulties, confined to wheelchairs with limited speech and movement abilities. With The Daily Mile™, we can support them to achieve active levels in their own way within their own capabilities.’
Jane also explains that many of the school’s children are autistic, and often non-verbal. ‘These children can struggle to understand instructions and need support to keep moving around The Daily Mile™ track,’ she says. ‘Yet there are so many ways we can structure and alter the initiative to suit their needs. For example, we often ask the children to take a ticket when they begin their run, and place it down at the other end of the track.’
‘This understanding of purpose and duration is important to the children’, adds Jane. ‘It allows them to take part in physical activity that also supports their personal wellbeing and sense of attainment . No matter how they take part, whether it’s one lap around a small track with support or a friendly race alongside a friend, the children succeed with their own personal achievements.’
The fact that The Daily Mile™ can be repeated at different times of day to suit the children’s needs is hugely important to the pupils of Springside Primary School . ‘Starting The Daily Mile™ and related activities as soon as the children arrive at school really helps them self-regulate by allowing them to be physically active alongside their peers. Beginning their day with their own form of mobility following a sedentary journey to school supports them to better listen and learn in class ,’ Jane says. ‘However, if they need a sensory break during the day, at any time, we can include The Daily Mile™ then too. It’s incredibly flexible to suit our children’s needs.’
‘Following The Daily Mile™ to the letter wouldn’t always be beneficial for the health of some of our children, such as those following advance care plans for medical reasons,’ continues Jane. ‘Yet as the initiative is so flexible, we can run physio programmes to get these children moving first thing. Whether they need full adult support, modified bikes, or can walk around a circuit themselves, we can adapt the concept to suit what our individual learners need. That’s the wonderful thing about The Daily Mile™: it brings every pupil, no matter their needs and abilities, together in physical activity.’
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