This May, walk to school and see the differences small steps make

Walk to  School Week
Walk to School Week

Primary school pupils across the country are being encouraged to swap the school run for a walk as part of one of the UK’s leading behaviour-change campaigns for young people.

Primary school pupils across the country are being encouraged to swap the school run for a walk as part of one of the UK’s leading behaviour-change campaigns for young people.

Running from May 20 to 24, Walk to School Week invites every primary child that can to go to school on foot and celebrate the benefits walking brings.

The event is organised by UK charity for everyday walking Living Streets as part of its National Walking Month.

According to Living Streets spokesperson Charlotte Rowles, it was inspired by the general decline in numbers of children walking to school: in 1975, 74 per cent of primary school children walked to school, but today just 51 per cent do.

Charlotte said: “Walking to school is an easy way for children to be more active, whilst also helping them to develop vital road safety skills.

“As we all become more aware of the dangers of air pollution on our health, walking to school is a positive action people can take to help clean up our air.”

Last year, over half a million pupils took part in Walk to School Week 2018.

Getting this in place takes some planning and often means engaging the community - including asking councils to close school roads to all but residents during school drop-off and pick-up times.

Charlotte said: “The desired aim of this is to enhance community relations in connection with school-related traffic. Simply put, parents and carers collecting children from school in cars can cause disturbance to people living near schools. Street closures have helped with this.”

As 2019 is the charity’s 90th anniversary, it has picked a theme close to its heart and cause: “We will take pupils on a special walking journey, re-tracing the steps of our greatest achievements over the course of the last 90 years, for example zebra crossings, dropped kerbs and ‘park & stride’. The classroom packs and activities are built to make the pupils feel empowered to change their walking environment for the better: they’ll experience first hand the importance of walking to school.”

In addition, West Sussex primary schools are being invited not only to join 4,000 schools and one million children in Walk to School Week, but also to be inspired to join Living Street’s year-round WOW walk to school challenge.

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‘Calmer, happier children’

Children in West Sussex are being invited to walk to school or not just in May, but throughout the year.

Road safety and sustainable travel to and from school are big priorities for West Sussex County Council (WSCC), thanks to their positive environmental, economic and health impacts.

WSCC sees Walk to School Week (WTSW) as a great way for families who do not currently walk to ‘give it a go’ and see how it could fit into their day.

However, it is also encouraging those who live a long distance from school to cycle, use public transport and benefit from the , car share or ‘park and stride’.

A WSCC spokesperson said it supports sustainable transport initiatives and ‘this is an all-year-round activity’.

He said: “We continue to invest in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure improvements.”

Other initiatives include a newly-launched School Crossing Patrol recruitment campaign, a ‘School Keep Clear’ traffic regulation order programme plus encouragement for schools to maintain travel plans.

Southbourne Infant School has taken part in the WTSW initiative for many years.

Headteacher Louise Partridge said: “It gives us an opportunity to stress the importance not only of a healthy lifestyle, but of sustainable travel – two issues that we promote throughout the year and which have helped us earn our Healthy School status.”

Louise said: “During the Walk To School Week we work with parents and children to encourage sustainable travel to and from school, whether it be walking, scooting or cycling.

“We also encourage parents to ‘park and stride’ – so that even those children whose parents need to make an onward journey can take part by parking away from the school and walking the last part.”

Louise said, to create a buzz around the week, the school sends information home for families to read.

She said: “We record how the children get to school for the week.

“We find that the children who have walked, scooted or ridden to school are often calmer, happier and more able to concentrate when they arrive.

“Plus it’s lovely to see the children feeling proud of themselves knowing that they are doing their best for both themselves and the environment”.