‘Love The Daily Mile: Love Your Heart’

On St. Valentine’s Day this year Stranmillis University College grounds turned into a sea of red where over 100 children, staff and invited guests ran The Daily Mile in red t-shirts sponsored by The British Heart Foundation, as part of the NI Science Festival. Giving a “hearty” Stranmillis welcome, Professor Heaslett Principal of Stranmillis University introduced the guest of honour on this most special day; the founder of The Daily Mile, Elaine Wyllie MBE.

Elaine was the head teacher at St Ninians Primary School, Stirling, Scotland, when she founded The Daily Mile. Concerned by the children’s lack of fitness, classes were encouraged to run around the school field for 15 minutes a day to improve their overall health – and so, on February 13th 2012, The Daily Mile was born. It was such a privilege that Elaine celebrated The Daily Mile’s 8th birthday with all of us at Stranmillis.

Elaine and her husband John had travelled from Scotland to be part of The Daily Mile launch for Moneynick and Duneane Shared Education Partnership in Learning primary schools. It was very fitting that the children sang “Happy Birthday, Daily Mile”, to her and then listened to her wonderful words of encouragement. Elaine said “I am delighted to be part of a wonderful morning with all the schools and all their children, along with the British Heart Foundation, working together to improve the health of the children. I’m so glad that The Daily Mile is here as part of that, making such a difference. All the children were out of breath, their cheeks were glowing and their hearts were clearly pumping fast”.

Mr Fearghal McKinney, Head of the British Heart Foundation NI also told all of the audience that, “We are delighted to support such a great event. Like most good ideas The Daily Mile is so simple but very effective in its benefits. Keeping our hearts healthy with exercise helps reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases”.

Following on from this Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond senior lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Stranmillis and the regional representative on the TDM Research Advisory Group in London said; “We’re thrilled to be organising “Love The Daily Mile Love Your Heart” as part of NI Science Festival in association with TDM Network NI, The British Psychological Society and our sponsors, The British Heart Foundation NI. The Daily Mile is a fantastic initiative as it is fully inclusive – every child, whatever their circumstances, age or ability can succeed at The Daily Mile. Children’s self-esteem, wellbeing and satisfaction can all improve. These skills are essential skills that will ultimately help children’s ability to learn. It is important to have adult role models doing TDM with children to show inclusiveness and the encouragement of the development of children’s relationships with their friends. It’s a great social activity for children to bond with their peers in a safe environment and it definitely helps concentration. It is about fun, freedom, fitness, improving health and wellbeing and being outside in the fresh air. The benefits of The Daily Mile go far beyond staying physically healthy. It is really positive that so many schools and clubs already take part in The Daily Mile and in Stranmillis we strive to encourage even more to get involved. It is my hope that The Daily Mile will become a province-wide daily activity in all schools in NI. Currently there are 274 schools registered in NI doing The Daily Mile which is 56,488 children participating in The Daily Mile in NI. The Daily Mile is in 78 countries across the world with over 10,880 schools signed up”.

The Daily Mile Network NI was established in June 2019 from an association of partners from Stranmillis, Public Health Authority, EA, Ulster University, British Psychological Society, Sustrans, Sport NI, Health and Social Care Trusts, Female Sports Forum and Champion Schools. This group is co-chaired by Dr Brenda McKay Redmond and Dr Barbara McConnell from Stranmillis University College and was established to co-ordinate and support the work of the development and implementation of TDM within Northern Ireland. The group aims to promote research and practice of the Daily Mile.

Barbara and Brenda ended the day by thanking everyone from the bottom of their hearts who made “Love The Daily Mile: Love Your Heart” such a ‘heartfelt’ memorable day for everyone who took part.

For more information about TDM please contact TheDailyMile@stran.ac.uk

A Surprise ECS Guest!

Recently, as part of a trip home from New Zealand to see family and friends, a graduate of the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies programme, Louise Wanoa (née) McMasters) called with Sheelagh Carville, Principal Lecturer and Head of the ECS programme, to fill her in on her time in New Zealand, since graduating from the degree programme.

Louise relayed her experiences:

“I graduated in 2002 with a BA (Hons) ECS degree. My time at Stranmillis was the start of a journey that opened up many opportunities for me, with my ECS degree leading me to where I am now.

Graduating from Stranmillis gave me the opportunity to study for a Master of Education degree in Special Education Needs at Queen’s University, Belfast, and ultimately led to the opportunity to move to Aotearoa (the Maori word for New Zealand). In 2009, the ECS degree was my ticket to teach in early childhood in NZ, including early intervention work with children who have complex special needs. From 2011 to 2013 I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work as a professional development facilitator on a three-year NZ Ministry of Education project to provide professional learning and development programmes for clusters of early childhood teaching teams across the South Auckland region. In early 2014 I gained a position in Wellington as a Programme Tutor, supporting nannies and home educators in their role of caring for and educating children in the home environment. I have recently completed a further Master of Education at Victoria University of Wellington and now look forward to a new chapter in my career, settled in NZ with my husband, and applying all of my early childhood expertise.

Stranmillis not only set me on a good career path, it also instilled an excellent work ethic, gave me a solution-focused mind-set, and the capacity to manage my own learning. I developed critical and creative thinking skills, and the ability to reflect on my professional practice.”

Sheelagh Carville reflected that, “it was lovely to catch up with Louise on her visit home. It was so interesting hearing about all of the wonderful work which Louise is doing, putting her Early Childhood Studies degree to such effective use in New Zealand.”


Louise [far right] at her graduation in 2002 with members of the ECS team

Louise providing professional development courses in NZ

Hazelwood Integrated College welcomes the Children’s Commissioner for their Daily Mile launch during Psychology Week

Hazelwood Integrated College is the first Post Primary school in NI to launch The Daily Mile. 220 Year 8 pupils ran with the Children’s Commissioner, members of the Northern Ireland British Psychological Society, school Principal Máire Thompson, Maria Robb, Pastoral Care Co-ordinator, and members of TDM Network NI.

As part of Psychology Week, over 4,000 children across schools in Northern Ireland took part in The Daily Mile on this day, running or walking one mile as part of an initiative to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of school children.

The Daily Mile (TDM) is a simple and free initiative for schools and nurseries, encouraging children to run or jog at their own pace for just 15 minutes every day, outside with their friends. Research has found that this exercise in a natural outdoor environment can rapidly improve self-esteem, relieve stress and anxiety and increase children’s overall happiness.

More than 9,500 schools are already registered for The Daily Mile in over 60 countries. Northern Ireland has 371 schools (30% of all schools) currently registered, but Hazelwood Integrated College is the first post-primary school in Northern Ireland to sign up to The Daily Mile with help from TDM Network NI members.

The Daily Mile Network NI consists of members from Stranmillis University College, Ulster University, St Mary’s University College, Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Trusts, Sustrans, Education Authority and the Northern Ireland British Psychological Society.

Stranmillis ECS lecturer Dr Brenda McKay Redmond, who is Chair of the Daily Mile Network and a representative on the TDM Research Advisory Group in London said:

“It is important to have adult role models doing TDM with children to show inclusiveness and the encouragement of the development of children’s relationships with their friends. It is about fun, freedom, fitness, improving health and wellbeing and being outside in the fresh air.”

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma said:

“The benefits of the Daily Mile go far beyond staying physically healthy. Older children can buddy up with younger kids, helping to build community. It’s a great social activity for children to bond with their peers in a safe environment and it definitely helps concentration. It’s really positive that so many schools and clubs already take part in the Daily Mile and I hope that today encourages even more to get involved.”

Prof. Nichola Rooney, Northern Ireland Chair of the British Psychological Society commented:

“The Daily Mile is a fantastic initiative as it is fully inclusive – every child, whatever their circumstances, age or ability can succeed at The Daily Mile. It also instils constructive habits from a young age which will continue to generate positive behaviour as the child develops. The Daily Mile research report finds that children feel happier, more awake and calmer after completing the one-mile challenge. On self-assessment questionnaires, children’s self-esteem, wellbeing and satisfaction all improved. These skills are essential skills that will ultimately help children’s ability to learn. We’re thrilled to be organising Northern Ireland’s first ‘Daily Mile Post Primary School’ as part of Psychology Week in association with TDM Network NI and our hope is that this is the beginning of a province-wide daily activity that will help children perform at their best every single day.”

Those wishing to follow in the “footsteps” of Hazelwood Integrated College, please register your school with www.thedailymile.co.uk .

For further advice and guidance contact TDM Network NI by e-mailing Brenda at b.mckayredmond@stran.ac.uk.

The Daily Mile Symposium

Dr Brenda McKay Redmond and Dr Barbara McConnell from the Early Childhood Studies Department of Stranmillis University College took part in a research symposium on the health benefits of the Daily Mile initiative on Friday 12th April at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick.

This symposium, entitled “What is the Daily Mile and is it any good for our Kids in NI?”, was part of the annual conference of the Northern Ireland Branch of The British Psychological Society. The symposium, which was chaired by Dr McConnell, who is also the Hon. General Secretary in NI of the British Psychological Society, brought together academics, practitioners, health professionals, teachers and the research co-ordinator from the Steering Group of the Daily Mile Foundation.

It began with academics from Ulster University presenting on their work around the Daily Mile. This was followed by Dr Colin Moran from Sterling University who presented on the first published Scottish study on the Daily Mile. (The Daily Mile originated in Sterling, where the head teacher, Elaine Wylie began it in St Ninian’s Primary School). Dr Brenda McKay Redmond then presented on a study that she has been implementing in Stranmillis with Year 1 ECS students during their ‘Children’s Health and Wellbeing Module’. This study facilitated students participating in The Daily Mile during seminar work, with the intention to motivate them to be The Daily Mile Champions in their settings and thus encourage more children to take part.

Following on from the research papers, Colette Brolly from the PHA and Clare Drummy, Physical Activity Co-ordinator for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, talked about how Health Professionals are supporting the implementation of The Daily Mile in Schools. The symposium ended with Philip Lavery and Rosin McMullan, Vice Principal and P.E Co-ordinator respectively from Mount St Michael’s Primary School in Randalstown, presenting a case study of their school introduce The Daily Mile and how beneficial they are finding children’s participation in it.

Dr Barbara McConnell, Chair of the symposium noted: ‘This was an excellent symposium and it was so good to have academics, health professionals and practitioners together in the room to learn from each other. We are very grateful that Emily Carson Research co-ordinator for the Daily Mile came along to hear the symposium and we are delighted that we are going to continue this network and have established a local partnership at Stranmillis to investigate ways to continue the research and participation in The Daily Mile. It was encouraging to hear that 222 schools – 27% of NI primary schools – have now registered for the Daily Mile in NI, but there are a number of schools still to register and we hope at Stranmillis to be able to support this work in collaboration with our partners. The symposium was an ideal opportunity to hear about the real life practicalities from the staff at Mount St Michael’s, but I was so moved to hear the stories of how it is an inclusive, free intervention and how all children can participate at their own level.’

Barbara expressed her gratitude to all the speakers at the symposium, especially thanking Colin Moran, whose mother and aunt are Stranmillis alumni.

The Talk of Tyrone – Stranmillis ECS staff launch The Daily Mile

Talking, walking and running were the requirements at the launch in Omagh County Primary School of The Daily Mile (TDM) initiative when Dr Brenda McKay Redmond and Dr Barbara McConnell, Stranmillis ECS staff, were the invited guests.

The Early Years staff at Omagh County P.S. have been working at introducing The Daily Mile for their children under the enthusiastic direction of Emma Daley, their nursery teacher and current Stranmillis ECS Master’s student. Emma wanted to introduce TDM as it is a social activity where the children walk, run or jog, at their own pace, for 15 minutes at least three times a week. It is fully inclusive and improves the health and wellbeing of children. Emma believes that TDM helps children to become more physically active, that it is sustainable and that the children are refreshed, returning to class ready to learn. The Early Years staff have also been working alongside Lesley Finlay & Eimear O’Kane (Western Health Social Care Trust (WHSCT) Health Improvement Department) and Oonagh Donnelly (Community Planning, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council) in the lead up to this exciting event.

Lesley Finlay, Physical Activity Co-ordinator for the Western Health & Social Care Trust, highlighted: “The Daily Mile is a simple, free way of promoting physical and mental health and also helps children focus in the classroom. We are delighted that Omagh County have introduced the initiative in their school. We have developed a range of resources to support Primary Schools who wish to participate in The Daily Mile including pupil certificates and classroom posters.”

Jill Funston, Principal of Omagh County PS, felt that the introduction of TDM in her school was significant because: “The Daily Mile removes barriers to the participation in physical activity. It is simple and inclusive. It introduces daily physical activity into children’s lives with the minimum of fuss. A valuable intervention in this time of austerity which costs nothing”.

The children celebrated completing their first mile by placing a sticker on their ‘The Daily Mile’ chart and enjoying a healthy picnic snack. What an achievement!
Brenda McKay Redmond insisted that: “Running along with the Nursery and Year 1 pupils as they embarked on their Daily Mile journey was the real privilege of the day. Being part of this TDM launch initiative, and watching the children embrace the core principles of TDM was so exciting. TDM was such a sociable event for the children as they had fun, ran and chatted with their friends, enjoying their experiences together. Barbara and I wish all the children and staff every continued success in implementing this vital and valuable initiative and hope they will continue to be the Talk of Tyrone!”

Further information on becoming a Daily Mile School can be found on TDM website www.thedailymile.co.uk and by contacting Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond B.mckayredmond@stran.ac.uk TDM representative for N.I. on TDM Research Advisory Group