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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Barnes Primary School goes the extra mile
Eleanor Oldroyd
Going the Extra Mile
Eleanor Oldroyd
Five Live broadcaster

Year Three at Barnes Primary School get off to a flying start
Year Three at Barnes Primary School get off to a flying start

Prince William's done it, Jamie Oliver's doing it and David Walliams did it - with added goose fat.

But I can't claim any sporting glory for myself this Sport Relief weekend - I've just got 400 school children to do it for me.

In February, I went to South Africa to visit some of the projects helped by Sport Relief money.

They aim to improve the lives of people shattered by AIDS - children orphaned by the disease, the elderly grandparents left behind to look after them, teenagers trying to avoid infection while dreaming of a proper future.

When I returned, I asked myself - what could I do to help? Running a mile, very slowly, for as much sponsorship I could persuade my friends and family to part with, was one possibility.

Check availability and locations for the Sport Relief Mile

But co-opting my children's primary school to put in the hard yards on my behalf seemed like a much more cost-effective, and let's face it, lazy option.

Happily, Barnes Primary School in South-West London is blessed with pupils bursting with energy and dynamic teaching staff.

Pass it on: Emerald class do a spot of line-out practise
If this is a generation of couch potatoes banned by the politically correct brigade from competitive sports, you could have fooled me!
Eleanor Oldroyd

After Easter I had the frankly terrifying experience of standing up in front of the whole school and selling the Sport Relief mile to them.

Forget broadcasting to millions of Five Live listeners, holding the attention of several hundred 4 to 11 year olds is much more daunting. If you're boring them, they'll let you know in no uncertain terms.

But their enthusiasm was fantastic. The Sport Relief message is brilliant for schools - it's a combination of getting fit, helping others in disadvantaged parts of the UK and the world, and wearing ludicrous red socks. They got it straight away.

All week, building up to Friday morning's big run, the socks were on sale outside school - and every single one was snapped up. Watching the kids arriving in impeccable school uniform with matching red sock was a massive buzz.

Head Teacher Mark Hartley was a human dynamo. Having got up early to pace out the course in a local park, he'd brought a skipping rope to school and was doing a passable impression of boxing world champion Ricky Hatton in front of the school gates.

In the assembly hall, two classes had chosen to do their mile by passing balls over the entire distance.

Sounds like a quiet, civilised option - but from the shrieks coming from the open doors you'd have thought Mc Fly had turned up to play a gig, and the celebrations from the winners challenged those of the Italian fans in the Circus Maximus as the World Cup was paraded.

Just done it! - the kids at Barnes Primary School show off their Sport Relief red socks
Just done it! - the kids at Barnes Primary School show off their Sport Relief red socks

Over in the park, the older children completed their miles, running or walking backwards, and after a brief warm down, went out and did a couple more circuits for fun.

As the littlest ones came out to do their bit - walking around the park, holding hands with their friends - the big ones cheered them on; "Go Nursery! Go Nursery!"

I rashly agreed to take a group of five year olds on a lap. They'd been told to walk, not run, in case they got too tired, but I was eating dust before they got as far as the swings.

If this is a generation of couch potatoes banned by the politically correct brigade from competitive sports, you could have fooled me.

We'll know next week how much money Barnes Primary School has raised for Sport Relief.

Combined with the sponsorship raised by more than a quarter of a million other schoolkids who are going the extra mile, it'll be cash that will change lives around the world.

They'll have got fit and had fun doing it. And that's one of the best lessons they'll learn in any school year.



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