Craigavon is leading the way with an innovative programme aimed at getting our primary school children fit and healthy.
The Healthy Kids programme has been running for almost two years and already has expanded into 17 local schools.
Spearheaded by Tannaghmore PS teacher Kevin Creery, the project aims to have pupils take part in regular physical activity.
Mr Creery told the ‘MAIL’ he was astounded at the societal statistics regarding the inactivity of children and as a PE teacher he decided to do something about it.
Starting in his own school, the project became so popular it has been rolled out to many other schools in Upper Bann with plans to bring it further afield.
With Paul Carville, a former professional soccer player and Director of Professional Coaching Providers, David Turley, a sports analyst and Liam McCorry a sports coach, they put together a 16 week physical literacy programme aimed not just at getting the kids back to fitness but to assess their progress with detailed data and video analysis to show just well the children have done.
“We did a DVD of all the kids so they can see themselves progressing from start to finish,” said David.
The pilot project was initially funded by the North Lurgan Community Association to help pay for the coaches.
“We presented our findings to the Association and they were so impressed that they asked us to roll it out into five more schools,” said Mr Creery.
They subsequently got funding from the Lough Shore Family Association and the project was rolled out across Upper Bann to schools in Maghery, Derrytrasna and Derrymacash as well as Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown.
It has become so successful it has mushroomed into a cross community project in 17 local schools with plans to get more schools involved.
So far since the project started there have been 942 children tested with another seven schools to test. There should be around 2,000 children tested by Christmas.
St Anthony’s PS is one of the schools taking part and Vice Principal, Paddy Mallon said: “The children’s confidence in their fitness and health is increasing.
“The Golden Mile enables the children to walk/run around our newly designed pitch for 15 minutes two times per week. We are proud that children are running between approximately 1,200m to 3,400m.
“At the beginning the children were a little apprehensive about this task but they quickly realised it wasn’t a task but in fact it was a very enjoyable activity.”
Orla (P7), “It is really fun and keeping me fit at the same time.”
Aidan (P7), “I wasn’t really in to running before but now I am as this is fun.”
Eve (P7), “It is better for your health than watching TV most of the time.”
Children have also commented that their stamina and speed is increasing which is positively impacting their participation in competitive sport outside of school. Parents have also commented that their children want to do more physical exercise and explore the outdoors more which makes the whole project worthwhile.