Walking to School
NEWS! From 21 March 2022 for 2 weeks, we will be taking part in Sustrans Walk and Wheel 2022 - we encourage as many children, parents and staff to find an active way to get to school.
How our children travel to and from school is a hot topic for discussion. 1 in 5 cars on our roads at 8.45am is on the school run, causing a marked increase in traffic, noise and pollution. As parents, you are hugely concerned about the safety of your children, as well as getting them to school and yourselves to work on time but walking to school has many benefits for children, for parents and for the environment.
Here are just some of them:
Benefits for children
Fitness and health
Walking to and from school is a great way to encourage children to do regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. It’s recommended that children do an hour of physical activity a day, yet only 1 in 5 achieve this level. With a third of children leaving primary school overweight walking to school is a great opportunity for children to increase their activity before they even start the school day.
Concentration at school
Children who are physically active on the way to school burn off some excess energy, and are better able to settle down and concentrate in lessons.
Road safety skills
Good habits learned young are good habits learned well. Teaching your children to walk safely to school will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Children who develop road awareness in primary school are in a much better position when they make the transition to secondary school.
Socialising and independence
Joining a walking bus or walking to school with friends gives children extra time in their day to build friendships and feel comfortable around other people. Walking to school is a great way to foster and scaffold children’s independence and responsibility, preparing them for starting secondary school. This can be an exciting time as they start to assert their independence, but for parents it can also be a worrying time. One of the most effective ways to prepare children is to start young and practice through real experience, like walking to school, the park or playground. Start practising these skills in an environment that they, and you, feel comfortable in.
Benefits for you
Fitness and health
The more you walk, the fitter you get! As children get older the pace that you and your child walk at can increase, adding to your daily total of physical activity. It’s easier to predict how long walking will take, rather than being at the mercy of traffic and finding a car parking space, which is likely to be much less stressful. It can also be a great time to chat and think, either about the day ahead or what has happened during the day.
Walking is cheaper than petrol, diesel or electricty!
Have you ever compared how long it takes to drive to school (loading everyone in the car, allowing time for/getting stuck in traffic, finding a parking space) with just walking to school? The difference is often less than you think, and walking could actually save you time. If your child is older, and able to walk to/from school by themselves, you could save even more time.
Benefits for the environment
Walking to school reduces the number of cars on the roads and reduces congestion around the school entrances, making it safer for our children and easier for those trying to get to work.
Switching to walking rather than driving can save huge amounts of CO2 and NOx, helping prevent climate change and reducing levels of air pollution, which are a major cause of asthma in children.
Tips for walking to school safely
When can children start walking to school?
Children can start walking to school (or nursery or playgroup) as soon as they can walk. Very young children will need a helping hand and safety is important.
There is no legal age minimum when a child is allowed to walk on their own, it’s up to you and your child, and will depend on their confidence and the routes they’re taking. We do ask that you communicate with school that it is your intentiomn to allow chidlren to walk home on their own, or with friends.
Practise safe road crossing
Children perceive traffic in different ways to adults; they can’t always judge the speed or distance of vehicles or where sound is coming from because their peripheral vision is less than that of an adult. This isn’t a reason not to walk, or not to encourage independent walking; it just means we have to be more aware of how we teach children road awareness (and make sure we set a good example).
· Set an example – always Stop, Look and Listen. Don’t take risks and avoid using your mobile phone when crossing the road
Bend down to their eye level to get an idea of what they can and can’t see
Find a safe place to cross, and explain why it is a safe place
Talk about the traffic that you see on your way and the best places to cross, and ask questions about the speed and size of different vehicles
· Gradually allow your children to practise making decisions about where and when to cross roads
As children reach Years 5 and 6 they will want to become more independent. Use this time to reinforce their road awareness and gradually encourage them to make their own decisions:
· Practice walking to school and other destinations together. Start to let them lead the way and make decisions about where and when to cross
Once you’re both confident, they could walk a little further ahead
When they’re ready to go it alone, work out a route together using quieter roads and avoiding busy junctions. Walk the route with them to point out good crossing points and things to watch out for
Encourage them to walk with local friends (you may want to set some ground rules with other parents first)
Remind them to avoid distractions such as chatting to friends, using mobile phones or wearing earphones when crossing roads
· Give them a copy of the Green Cross Code to take with them
The NSPCC Safe and Sound Checklist
This is a useful checklist to help make sure you and your children are ready for the next steps of independence, whatever they may be
As soon as your child is old enough, teach them their full name, address and two family phone numbers (including their home phone number)
Teach them never to go off with ANYONE, unless they have contacted you to check that it’s ok
Teach them how cross roads safely
Listen to your child – make sure that they and you are happy with what they are doing, before and after then event
Links and resources