Elaine Wyllie on her mission to mobilise UK kids
61, FOUNDER OF THE DAILY MILE
IN MARCH 2012, Elaine Wyllie, head teacher at St Ninian’s primary school in Stirling, Central Scotland, took her class of 10-year-olds out to the playground to jog or run for 15 minutes. And so The Daily Mile (TDM) was born, an initiative that has now been adopted by thousands of schools across the UK. Elaine, from Fife, retired from teaching last year and now devotes her time to improving children’s health, fitness and development through TDM.
WHAT SPARKED THE IDEA?
A volunteer commented that the children were unfit and this was confirmed by the PE teacher, who said they were exhausted by the PE warmup! When I took them out for the first run only a handful could run round the field. They were shocked by their poor performance and were keen to do something about it.
DID IT CATCH ON QUICKLY?
The children were so positive in their comments that it was clear to me this was a very effective way to introduce physical activity into the life of every child in the school and nursery – from three to 12 years old. It’s social, fun and simple.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
It's every child, every day, outside in most weather, running, jogging or walking for 15 minutes. They run in their school clothes so don’t need to change into kit; this removes one of the main barriers to participation in physical activity. It’s social, so the route must be wide enough for children to run together. It’s not competitive, but some children will compete and that's fine.
HOW DO YOU GET KIDS OUTSIDE IN HORRIBLE WEATHER?
The children are selfmotivated to go out and run – weather is seen as a benefit, not a barrier. Running becomes normal for them and they consistently report that they enjoy the fresh air, connecting with the seasons and the sense of freedom they get.
IS REWARD EVER USED?
Reward isn’t necessary, but there can sometimes be simple child-pleasing incentives from time to time, such as stickers or badges. Target setting can be fun, and using stopwatches or lap counters once in a while can be motivating.
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN IT HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT IN A SCHOOL?
When done according to the core principles, TDM is always successful. If a school overcomplicates it, if children don’t go out regularly (three times a week is the minimum) or if there is too much measurement, it’s less likely to be sustainable.
DID YOU ENVISAGE HOW FAR YOUR IDEA WOULD SPREAD?
Once it was established in the school and nursery I saw it had all the components for a successful national initiative. It is simple and free. Teachers, children and parents all like it. Finally, it is universal and, critically, sustainable in the long term.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL?
To enjoy better health now and for the next 70 years of their lives, I’d like to ensure that children everywhere, regardless of their age, circumstances or ability or have the chance to do The Daily Mile in their school. We now have around 3,000 primary schools in the UK, a further 1,100 in Holland and Belgium and we are also seeing it being picked up by some schools in the US. In Scotland, it’s government policy to see TDM rolled out in nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools, universities and workplaces and we recently launched TDM in Wales, too.
WHAT SORT OF EXERCISE DO YOU ENJOY?
Scotland offers many lovely places to walk and I enjoy hillwalking and hiking with my husband, John. One of life’s great pleasures is to be outside in nature.
‘ It’s every child, every day, outside in most weather, running, jogging or walking for 15 minutes’