Most surveys find that children would like to walk to school, and
this probably explains why nationally it is still the most popular
mode of travel for 54 % of primary and 43% of secondary pupils.In Hampshire, surveys have shown that
45% of primary and 36% of secondary school children walk to school.
Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to increase exercise
within children's everyday routine. Unfortunately, the number has
decreased quite sharply over the past 20 years(in 1989-1991 walking accounted for 62% of primary and
48% of secondary pupils' journeys).
This is reflected by the increasing number of journeys by car. In
turn, this has resulted in fewer children participating in physical
activity, contributing to a growing proportion of them being
classified as obese, figures having doubled to 60% for boys and girls
in less than ten years.
is walking to school a good idea?
general stamina, energy and alertness as well as reducing
susceptibility to disease.
Did you know research
has proved that if you make a short journey in a car, you are exposed
to more air pollution than if you walk? This is mainly because cars
travel in the middle of the road, where pollution is most
So, walking could mean breathing in less pollution than that car
journey! (See Health and physical
activity for more details.)
As we all know, being overweight can cause health problems, for
example, childhood diabetes or heart disease,
and high blood pressure in adulthood. However, by just including one
hour of physical activity every day into a child’s routine, many of
these problems can be prevented.
school journeys to be made on foot can help reduce the number of
cars on the road. This should lead to a decrease in pollution,
therefore making walking even more beneficial.
Parents/guardians worry about speeding traffic, accidents and
injury and this is
frequently cited as the main reason for not letting their children
walk to and from school. In addition, they also worry about crossing
the roads, strangers, poor lighting and dirty and overgrown
footpaths. Inevitably this has lead to an increase in children being
driven to school by car, leading to fewer people on the streets.
However, providing appropriate training and encouraging children to
walk will in turn increase their road awareness, independence and
confidence. These benefits will continue throughout the rest of their
lives, not just on the journey to and from school. This can also
assist in reducing the number of children involved in road traffic
accidents. (See our section on Child
safety for more details.)
Unsurprisingly, the increase in the level of traffic over recent
years has led to greater congestion, and increased levels of
pollution. Parents are understandably worried about their children
walking to and from school near roads that are busy or congested.
However, taking them by car can escalate the problems further and
continue to damage the environment. By implementing measures to make
children and their parents/guardians feel safer (e.g. extended
footways, clearance of footpaths and improved street lighting), it
may encourage others to leave their cars behind and help create a
healthier, cleaner and safer environment for their school journey.
(See our section on the Environment.)
Other issues to consider
- Time constraints,
particularly in light of the increase in parents/guardians
needing to travel on to work after the school run.
- Length of journey to school
or parents/guardians choosing to send their children to schools
outside of traditional catchment areas.
There are numerous examples, nationally and locally of successful
initiatives and measures that can form part of your School Travel
Plan to increase the number of pupils walking. The following list
provides you with various ideas, some of which can be carried out by
Hampshire County Council in partnership with local businesses,
- Provide reflective clothing
for those walking or cycling to school either at reduced rates or
- Create a traffic free zone
outside the school entrance to enable pedestrians to enter and
leave the school safely.
- Delay cars leaving for 10
minutes until pedestrians have left the school safely.
- Provide lockers for safety
clothing, outdoor wear, and equipment for those in secondary
- Organise Walk to School
events such as a ‘walk a day a week’ campaign.
- Offer personal safety training
for children and parents.
The details below provide some ideas of additional works that
could be considered but would be subject to feasibility studies.
- Provide additional pedestrian refuges (halfway point
across a road) and additional crossing points at busy and
dangerous locations which students and parents/guardians have
identified through consultation.
- New footpaths.
- New traffic signals.
- Traffic calming measures including a lower speed zone,
pinch points etc.
- Coloured surfacing and additional signing to warn
drivers that they are driving in a school safety zone.
The age range of primary school children means their levels of experience and
confidence will vary greatly and this will need to be reflected in
your surveys and general research the childrens’ travel behaviour.
The types of measures (as well as those above) you could consider to
increase levels of walking include:
Setting up a
walking bus, which is an organised walking
group of children led by adults (a ‘driver’ and ‘conductors’ who
take responsibility for the safety of the children in their
care). Parents wait at specific ‘bus stops’ for volunteers to
escort their children to school. Contact the
Planning Team for further information on this.
Department for Transport provides guidance on how to set one
Participate in the
‘Streets Ahead’ pedestrian training
scheme from Hampshire's
Road Safety Team. The training is aimed at
year two children age 6-7 years and all schools in the
County Council area have the opportunity to take part. They will
be taught various skills for dealing with a variety of road
safety situations such as crossing roads and choosing the safest
route. Contact the School Travel Planning Team for more
information as above.
Provide incentives to children if they walk on their school
journey e.g. book tokens or stickers (The School Travel Planning
Team have stickers available on request)
Due to the nature of secondary school work, there are likely to be
more books and certainly lots of homework which may often put
students off walking or cycling to school with such heavy loads. To
overcome this your school could try to;
- reduce the number of books that they have to take home, or
provide lockers for students
- consider making changes to the homework timetable so they do
not have too much to carry on any one day
- allowing girls to wear trousers, if your school does not
- provide incentives to walk, ie sports shop vouchers
- encourage the use of backpacks to evenly distribute the load,
avoiding back problems.
Further information on these and other initiatives can be found in
the separate Identifying solutions and developing initiatives