Thousands of primary pupils in Nottingham are being urged to run 100 miles over the next school year in a bid to get fit and healthy – and complete the Sheriff’s Challenge.

Children aged five to 11 will be encouraged to run a one-mile course around their school playgrounds at least twice a week to hit the 100-mile target – that’s the equivalent of running four full marathons each over the 2016/17 academic year!

Schools are being asked to sign up to the Sheriff’s Challenge, which is being organised by Nottingham City Council as part of the Opportunity Notts initiative to encourage more young people to get active and broaden their horizons.

The idea of children running a mile every day has been pioneered in primary schools in Scotland and has proven to reduce levels of childhood obesity as well as improve children’s concentration levels during the lessons. It is hoped this could lead to higher attainment and encourage better attendance.

Children run the course at different times during the school day – especially when teachers feel concentration starting to flag. The pioneering school – St Ninian’s Primary near Stirling in Scotland – had pupils running or walking the mile at random times every day for three-and-a-half years. Despite the rise in childhood obesity across the UK, none of the children at the school are overweight.

Nottingham currently has high levels of obesity among children, with almost four in every 10 pupils leaving primary school classed as obese – while at Reception age Nottingham has the second highest proportion of overweight children in the country.

It is hoped that the Sheriff’s Challenge will show children how fun it is to be active while giving them an overall target to aim for over the school year.

Cllr Jackie Morris, the Sheriff of Nottingham, said: “I’m laying down the gauntlet to every primary school pupil in the City – complete my challenge and you’ll have gone a huge way towards being fitter and more active. I hope that lots of schools and their pupils sign up to take part. Imagine if we add together all of the miles that will be run by every child in the City: it could be enough to run to Australia… and back!”

Nottingham has 28,551 primary pupils in 75 schools. If just 100 pupils complete the 100 miles that would be the same as collectively running to Australia (approx. 10,000 miles).

Cllr Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Education, Employment and Skills, added: “While parents have a vital role to play in making sure their children lead fit and healthy lives, it’s equally important that schools set the tone – and I’ll be interested to see if running and walking can help boost concentration in our schools.

“Opportunity Notts is a great initiative that aims to get young children to unlock their potential and take part in the full range of learning experiences the City has to offer.”

Robin Hood Primary School in Bestwood has piloting the Daily Mile this year.

Head teacher Andrew Sharp said: “Our PE Specialist, Mike Gray, decided to introduce the ‘Robin Hood Mile’ at the start of the school year to help our pupils become more active and improve fitness levels. The results have been fantastic.

“Not only does it help to keep the pupils’ activity levels high and give them a better understanding of being healthy, but it is also complementing the work we already do to promote exercise within school. One of the benefits we found is that it really boosts concentration levels at times of the day when the children might be starting to feel tired.

“We’re very aware of our role, alongside parents, in showing youngsters how important it is to be active and healthy. We want them to become ambassadors to future generations, including for their own children, and to understand the health and wellbeing benefits of regular exercise.”

The Sheriff’s Challenge will begin in primary schools in September 2016, with children logging their miles until July 2017.