Walking the school run
Statistics from the Department for Transport reveal that road traffic in Britain grew by 80 per cent between 1980 and 2005, and the number of children travelling to school in cars has doubled over the past 20 years. In 2017, more than a third (34%) of children in England aged 5-16 travelled to school by car every day, according to research from the AA.
There’s concern that this trend is contributing to reduced physical activity in children and an increase in childhood obesity levels, urban congestion, and air pollution.
What are the benefits of walking to school?
The school run accounts for a large proportion of rush-hour traffic. Here are some of the key benefits of taking to your feet instead:
Soaring rates of childhood obesity and illnesses such as Type 2 Diabetes associated with this can be prevented through a healthy dose of walking. In fact, walking helps protect the body from many serious illnesses later on in life. On average around half of all children do not do the minimum one hour a day of physical activity recommended by the Health Education Authority. A brisk walk to school can help them get their daily exercise and arrive at school or home, refreshed and energised.
Walking can have a positive effect on a child’s emotional wellbeing. It can encourage independence, road sense and also be an opportunity to chat with friends.
The average drive to school and back releases 800g of CO2 into the air – enough to inflate over 60 balloons.
Encouraging your child to walk to school will save you money on transport fares or petrol money.
Walking to school dos and don'ts
It is up to you as a parent to decide when your child is old enough to walk to school alone or with friends. Always make sure your child is familiar with the route and keeps in contact with you should they be late home.
Model good road safety yourself at all times – children learn by example so it’s vital to show them they must cross at crossings.
Check your child’s footwear is comfortable and appropriate for walking. You could bring trainers for the walk and they could change their shoes once at school.
Make sure your child’s school bag isn’t too heavy as this can cause back problems and poor posture.
If you live far from the school you could try combining alternative transport with walking, or drive part of the way.
Make walking fun and enjoyable for your child. Chat about the local surroundings, and encourage your child to talk about their school day.
- Find out if there are any schemes in your local area such as 'walking buses', groups of school children chaperoned by two adults (a 'driver' and a 'conductor') and operating just like a regular school bus – collecting children and taking them to school – but all on foot!
It's also worth investigating how you might make changes to your school drop-off and pick-up routines, one or more times a week. Could you 'Park and Stride', for example?
The AA has some tips to help make your school journey quicker and easier and ease congestion for other road users, and the Walk to School campaign offers tips and ideas to help teachers and parents get children excited about walking.