Tuesday 15 March 2016. Pupils at Leatherhead’s Woodlands School for children with physical and learning disabilities will be donning Sports Relief t-shirts to run the Sports Relief mile on Thursday 17th March as they celebrate completing their first term of 15 minute lunchtime runs.
The daily ‘chair to 1km’ initiative was introduced by the school’s nursing and therapy team in January 2016. They acted after reading increasing research about the lack of fitness and exercise among children with disabilities. They were also inspired by the success of a daily run that was introduced in a school in Stirling, Scotland, for which the headteacher won ‘Teacher of the Year’ in the 2015 Pride of Britain awards.
Around 10 children take part in Woodlands School’s 1pm daily run, accompanied by the school’s specialist nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech & language therapists, who are employed by CSH Surrey. The children include those who have been identified by their consultants as needing to better manage their weight, as well as those who the physiotherapists identified would benefit from increased fitness and strength. The run is proving so popular that other children are now asking to take part.
The nursing and therapy team are measuring the success of the initiative in a number of ways.
Amy Bell and Sarah Lonsdale, the two CSH Surrey physiotherapists who launched the ‘chair to 1km’ initiative with the wider therapy and nursing team, say: “We are already seeing health benefits for the children, after just 10 weeks. One child’s weekly weight gain has stabilised and others have built up tolerance and strength, going from being hand-led in January to running independently now. We measured the children’s resting heart rates in January and will repeat these checks before the school breaks up for Easter at the end of March when we expect these to have improved.”
One mother said she was “bursting with pride” over her son’s achievements. Another says that her son “loves running club and is very competitive”. She feels that “running club is of great benefit to his overall health and fitness."
The initiative has been warmly welcomed and fully supported by the school’s headteacher, Adrienne Knight. She says: “Our daily run is so simple to do and takes just 15 minutes. The benefits are clear – as well as the children getting stronger and fitter, we’ve also noticed the children are more alert in the afternoons and their attention is class has also improved. Our staff have been joining in when they can and it’s benefiting them too! We are very fortunate to have such a proactive and keen nursing/ therapy team here at Woodlands. They have good ideas and then work hard to make them happen. This is such a good initiative and I would hope that other schools would take up the challenge and follow their example.”
Primary schools across Surrey will soon be able to introduce their own daily runs thanks to Active Surrey’s ‘Run to Rio’ campaign, developed to mark the start of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For 12 weeks during the summer term, all primary school children in Surrey will be challenged to run or walk one mile per day around their school and thus collectively run the 5700 miles from Surrey to Rio. All schools that manage the full distance to Rio will receive free baseline fitness testing from Premier Sport. The ultimate winner, who records the most miles per pupil, will win a visit from an Olympic athlete on Tuesday 12th July.
The response from schools so far has been phenomenal, with 36,000 children from 120 primary schools across the whole of the county signed up so far, and the number is growing.
School nurses from CSH Surrey and First Community (which covers schools in east Surrey) are actively encouraging schools to support the campaign. Chris McDermott, CSH Surrey’s School Nursing Practice Development Lead, says: “We have wanted schools to introduce the daily mile for some time now, so it’s fantastic that Active Surrey and Surrey County Council have created the Run to Rio campaign. Our school nurses are actively promoting it within their schools as the health benefits for both physical and emotional health and wellbeing are so clear.”
Elizabeth Duggan from Active Surrey’s School Sport team said “We are overwhelmed by the response to Run to Rio and it’s great that CSH Surrey’s and First Community’s school nursing teams are on board and that we also have the support of Surrey County Council which endorses the idea of a daily mile for Surrey’s schools. It is a very simple concept with a huge impact. Getting children moving an extra 15 minutes per day is proven to reduce obesity levels, improve pupil behaviour and increase concentration in the classroom. We are delighted to be getting thousands of children more active this summer.”