Walk to School Week

Written by: Kathryn Shaw | Published:
Feet first: Pupils taking part in national Walk to School Week (Images: Living Streets)

This year’s Walk to School Week takes place from May 16 to 20. Kathryn Shaw looks at how schools might get involved, including the School Route Audits

Walk to School Week is organised by Living Streets, a UK charity for everyday walking, and takes place during National Walking Month each May. Last year, more than 14,000 classes took part – that’s approximately 400,000 children walking to school.

Schools become healthier and happier places when children walk to school. Physically active children are more alert and ready to learn than those who are driven, plus a huge 23 per cent of peak-time traffic is made up from those on the school run, so the more children walking, the less congestion and pollution there is on local roads, making school gates a safer place.

The Chief Medical Officer recommends that children are active for 60 minutes a day, but only one-fifth of five to 15-year-olds are achieving this. Walking to school is a free, accessible and easy way for children to build more exercise into their day.

However, the number of children walking to school is in serious decline. Just 46 per cent of children walk to school now compared to 70 per cent of their parents’ generation. We need to take action to reverse this decline and prevent the problems associated with inactivity. Walk to School Week is a great way to start.

Living Streets has Walk to School Week resource packs for key stages 1 and 2 as well as P1-4 and P5-7 in Scotland to help you get your school walking. The theme for 2016 is “Strider’s Walk in the Wild”, with resources focusing on the walking habits and natural environments of different animal species each day of the week.

Each challenge pack contains everything you need to run the five-day walking challenge for a class of up to 30 pupils, including a classroom wallchart, teacher and pupil wallchart stickers, 30 pupil activity diaries, 30 pupil rewards magnets and teacher instructions.

Any partner secondary schools can also take part in Walk to School Week by taking on the Free Your Feet Challenge. This is a week-long activity encouraging students to walk to school every day of that week, with a chance to win a £50 shopping voucher for all those who participate.

To make the most of Walk to School Week, why not host a special breakfast for pupils who walk to school, organise an assembly to celebrate getting active, or sign up to take part in Happy Shoesday?

Happy Shoesday takes place nationwide during Walk to School Week (this year on Tuesday, May 17). Pupils across the country don the shoes that make them the happiest: slippers, wellies or glitter sandals, whatever generates the biggest smile on the walk to school – and donate a £1 to Living Streets. It is free for schools to take part and the simple “donate £1” format makes it very easy for pupils to join in and raise money.

Signed-up schools receive downloadable resources with shoe capes, classroom ideas and materials, plus a pack of stickers and posters. The money raised from Happy Shoesday goes to Living Streets to support the charity’s work with schools, disability groups and local communities, and campaigning work to make UK streets safer for everyone.

If you want to increase your school’s walking rates all year round, there are long-term options you could look into. Living Streets carries out School Route Audits to establish what is preventing people from walking and works with local authorities to implement the potential solutions identified in the audit, from traffic calming measures to improving footpaths or crossings.

For example, we know that some families can’t walk all the way to school due to time commitments but believe that Park and Stride schemes offer a great solution. By parking a short distance away from the school, children and parents can still get active for part of their journey. Living Streets has helped schools set up successful Park and Stride schemes with local businesses, which benefit from increased footfall and making a positive contribution to the surrounding community. Plus schools get healthier pupils and fewer cars around the school gates.

Walk to School Week is a great place for schools to start thinking about walking and can lead on to Walk Once a Week – WoW – Living Streets’ year-round Walk to School initiative. WoW rewards children who walk to school at least once a week with collectable badges which are designed by pupils in an annual competition.

The campaign is proven to significantly increase walking rates, creating safer streets and happier, healthier pupils. In the primary schools we work with, we typically see a 23 per cent increase in the number of children walking to school. This is met with a corresponding drop in car use.

Challenge your school to walk every day during Walk to School Week and make a real difference to your children’s happiness and wellbeing.

  • Kathryn Shaw is from Living Streets.

Further information

Find out more about Walk to School Week and Happy Shoesday at www.livingstreets.org.uk/walktoschool


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