Pupil fitness is miles better in Wigan

Pupils from Woodfield Primary have excelled with the Daily Mile
Pupils from Woodfield Primary have excelled with the Daily Mile

A regular run is ensuring that fewer four and five-year-olds in Wigan are officially classed as fatties.

At least 14,000 youngsters across the borough are estimated to take part in the Daily Mile, where pupils can race or jog their way to fitness during school hours.

And the accomplishment is reflected in the ratio of reception class pupils who have enjoyed an improvement in their healthy weight to those who haven’t.

Councillors have been told that Wigan is one of only four authorities in the country which has achieved that distinction.

Prof Kate Ardern, the borough’s public health director, said in a report to the local authority’s children and young people scrutiny committee: “These improvements are likely to be attributable to the work that has been focused on the early years over a sustained period of time, such as introducing solid foods education, healthy lifestyles programme, delivered in early years settings and primary schools in partnership with staff in the settings, health visitors, school nurses and families and the introduction of the Daily Mile in 2016.”

But health chiefs admit that rolling out the programme to the borough’s high schools has proved to be more of a challenge, partly due to timetabling constraints and congestion encountered in secondary education.

Earlier this year the Wigan Post reported how 37 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds were considered to have weight problems.

This figure, for youngsters preparing to leave primary school, is higher than the national average of 34.2 per cent: a stark rise from the 31.8 per cent who were said to be obese in 2012.
Prof Ardern added: “The healthy weight of children aged 10 to 11 years continues to be a challenge – locally, regionally and nationally.

“With that in mind, inclusive, simple and low or no cost opportunities such as the Daily Mile are an important part of our strategy to ensure we continue to address our outcomes against this indicator.”

One of the schools cited as an exemplary case study for councillors is Woodfield Primary in Whitley, which was awarded the fitness and wellbeing prize at the Wigan Observer education awards this month.

Judges noted that since the introduction of the Daily Mile had “proved to be a huge success” and remarked how the runs had not only boosted fitness levels but also had a positive impact on concentration, mood and behaviour in the classroom.

Teachers at Woodfield secured the support of Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan in providing a purpose-built track around the Wigan Lane school

Staff have reported how they have developed the original concept even further, with parents and the local community, by staging morning miles and school gate walks.
Recent university research has also endorsed the Daily Mile’s value at a national level.