Walking to school regularly is not only a fantastic way to encourage an active lifestyle, it is also a great opportunity to teach your children vital road safety skills and ensure they are alert and ready to learn at the start of a new day. Teachers even report that those pupils who walk to school are more attentive once they reach their desks.
Parents also tell us they find the journey to school less stressful, their petrol bill goes down, their children perform better at school and that they, and their children, feel healthier and fitter. Research shows that 90% of parents who walk to school tell us how important this time is for spending quality time with their children. Over a third tell us that the journey to school is also where they find out the most about their child’s life.
To celebrate National Walk to School Week we spoke to one head teacher about the benefits of walking to school, and how the school is taking part in this national campaign.
Miss Lucas is the Head at Clive C of E Primary School in North Shropshire. The school is situated half way up Grinshill, surrounded by the beautiful Shropshire countryside. Due to its unique location it’s practically inaccessible by car so the children who attend have no choice but to walk to school, but that offers them and their families certain benefits.
Miss Lucas told us that ‘It’s healthy to walk to school. In school we cover maintaining good health, well-being and eating healthily through PSHE, science and extra-curricular activities. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day and walking to school is a great way to help get those minutes up!’
Research shows that up to 72% of children aren’t meeting the recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day and according to the NHS, 9 out of 10 children could grow up with life threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease partly because they aren’t getting enough exercise. The journey to and from school is an ideal time for children to be active.
Walking with your children is good for parents too – it improves your heart and circulation, increases mental health and wellbeing, helps with weight loss and boosts your immune system.
Miss Lucas told us that ‘On the walk up to school children are listening, looking and enjoying the outdoors; they talk in awe and wonder about what they have discovered on the walk into school. They see and explore their natural environment in all seasons and all weathers, and learn about the world around them by experiencing it first-hand. The school makes the most of its unique location, and will take the children to see fox cubs in the land around the school for example, and encourage the children to discover and learn before they have even stepped foot on the playground.’
Walking to school is educational, it can help your child build independence, road safety and social skills.
Miss Lucas told us that ‘In school we do a lot with the children about safety and awareness on the roads, alongside deciding how and where to cross the road safely. Due to the rural location of the school we also have to consider safely walking down roads where there are no footpaths, and also if children are finishing after school clubs in the winter and it is starting to get dark how they can keep themselves safe. We also have the Road Safety Officer visit school to talk about keeping safe and we also support children who may travel by bicycle.’
Sadly around 1,400 children aged 0–11 are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads every year. That’s around 27 children a week. But let’s get one thing clear: it’s still important for children to be outside. Talking about traffic with your child when you’re out and about is one of the best ways for him or her to learn. By walking to school you can set a good example to your child, showing them that you do not take risks when crossing the road. You can hold the hand of a younger child, or make sure your child is walking on the side of the pavement away from the traffic, or if there is no pavement then they are walking on the side of the road facing ongoing traffic.
Miss Lucas told us that ‘We have an eco-committee in school and through this group and the work we do in school, children become very aware of looking after our environment and natural world. Walking to school enables the children to see how others are also caring for the world around them, making sure there is no litter or rubbish on the route up to school, and acting responsibly and sensibly should they see any litter damage. The children also know that is it better for the environment not to be relying on cars for short journeys and how walking to school will help to reduce their carbon footprint.’
Walking to school is better for the environment. Research shows that one person switching five journeys of fewer than 2 km a week from the car to walking would reduce their carbon footprint by 86 kg a year. In the UK the school run is estimated to be responsible for over 2 million tonnes of CO2 emitted each year which is more than the annual CO2 emissions of the Bahamas. More people walking and fewer cars on the road during the school run also means less pollution for everyone to breathe in. 1 in 5 cars in the morning rush hour is on the school run – if we all try walking that journey more often, we will make a huge impact on congestion in our towns and cities.
It will also save you money. Walking to school instead of driving saves, on average, £400 per year.
Miss Lucas told us ‘As most of our children walk some or all of the way to school we have adapted Walk to School Week to suit our school. This year we are planning a whole school walk around the bottom of Grinshill, which is approximately 3 kilometres and will take the children about an hour and a half to complete. We don’t steer the children, and they walk at their own pace. Older children will choose to walk with some of the younger children and all age groups will get the chance to mix. It’s a really enjoyable and sociable time for the school.’
Walking to school is a great chance to socialise. Research shows that 62% of parents who walk to school say their children get to socialise with others before they arrive at the school gates, as opposed to only 31% of children who are driven. As parents you may also get to meet other parents at school too.
So during Walk to School Week why not think about making a small change. If it isn’t possible to walk the whole way to school, then park a bit further away and walk some of the way. There is a lot more information on how you can be involved in Walk to School Week on the Living Streets website Living Streets – Walk to School, where much of the information in the blog was taken from.
Special thanks to Miss Lucas Head Teacher at Clive C of E Primary School for agreeing to be interviewed as part of this blog.