15th September 2020
With the start of term this September, the government launched a brand new “Back To School Safely” campaign aimed at getting pupils, parents and teachers to think about travelling to school in alternative ways. As well as reducing pollution and congestion around schools, the scheme aims to encourage people who have other options available to them to avoid public transport if possible.
Most public transport routes are working at a reduced capacity to cope with social distancing regulations. This could mean waiting longer or seeking out transport that runs at less convenient times. We are fully backing the Back To School Safely Campaign – it recommends lots of different ways that teachers and pupils can travel to school and reiterates the benefits of daily exercise!
Walking, cycling or even using a scooter to get to school are excellent options for everyone travelling to schools, not just in reducing the risk of COVID transmission but in lots of other ways too! More than 50% of Primary pupils live within 2 miles of their school and the government is keen to encourage those in this category that currently use public transport to walk, cycle or scoot instead. Walking, cycling and scooting are all forms of ‘Active Transport’; fun, healthy and sustainable methods of travelling that have a big impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities!
The benefits of daily exercise are well documented for both children and adults. Walking for just ten minutes extra per day counts towards the recommended 150 mins per week of exercise and boost your circulation, cardiovascular fitness and stamina. For children, walking carries lots of health benefits and has the added bonus of setting them up for an active and productive day – children who walk to school are more alert and have better concentration in lessons as well as being healthier overall. Only 38% of 11-16-year-olds were walking to school during the last National Transport Survey in 2019 whilst the average journey to school was under 3 miles – it’s vital for everyone who lives near enough to their school to walk, cycle or scoot in order to leave space on public transport for those who live further afield. Encourage pupils to walk by arranging ‘walking bubbles’, offering an incentive for walkers such as free orange juice on their arrival, or create a graph to show how many miles/steps/football pitches they’ve walked during the term!
For pupils and teachers who live slightly further away from their place of education, cycling is a fantastic healthy option that could reduce both journey time for individuals and congestion for the community. Many schools and other employers are participating in the government’s Cycle To Work scheme, offering a cheaper way to own a new bike for participants – it’s worth checking if your school or employer is a member! If not, there are lots of second-hand bikes available for sale through Facebook marketplace or through second-hand apps such as Gumtree or Shpock. We also found some great bargains on Secondbike. For schools looking to encourage pupils to cycle, there are some fantastic ideas, information and details of how to run a cycle safety course through the governments Bikeability scheme.
Scooting is a fun, fast way to get around and it’s perfect for school-age children travelling short distances to school. It isn’t just for pupils either, it’s an enjoyable and convenient way for every to travel to school – we know of several teachers who get to work on their trusty scooters! As well as taking up less room when they are not in use, scooters are legal to ride on the pavement, making the journey to school safer for younger children. Many schools across the UK are offering initiatives for pupils and adults wanting to scoot the school run, and there are countrywide campaigns encouraging adults and children alike to give scooting a go! Check out the ‘Scoot Safely’ campaign from Brightkidz which has some fantastic ideas for encouraging your pupils to scoot, from setting up a Scooter Club to obtaining government funding for a pool of scooters for your school to utilise.
Don’t forget as the nights get darker everyone walking to and from school should make sure they are visible to traffic – ensure you and your class know how to be seen by motorists in the winter months by wearing fluorescent clothing, getting lights for your personal transport and using roads and pavements responsibly. There’s plenty of info and resources for teachers and schools on the Think! website here and the governments own ‘Safer Transport’ Scheme here. It’s also important to make sure younger or more nervous children aren’t walking in dark areas at night alone – partnering pupils up with others in their bubble to walk home with can give less confident pupils confidence and build their independance. Find out more about creating safe walking routes around schools here.
Check out our Back To School guidance for teachers, supply staff and our colleagues for the latest updates to guidelines here. Happy travels!
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