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Healthier living
Breathe easy
Improved road awareness
Improved environment
What walking related initiatives might feature in a School Travel Plan?
Primary schools
Secondary schools


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.1 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 years2 (in 1989-1991 walking accounted for 62% of primary and 48% of secondary pupils' journeys).3 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.4

 So why is walking to school a good idea?

Healthier living

Walking builds general stamina, energy and alertness as well as reducing susceptibility to disease.Image of walking to school
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.

Breathe easy

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 concentrated.5 So, walking could mean breathing in less pollution than that car journey! (See Health and physical activity for more details.)

Encouraging more 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.

Improved road awareness

Cartoon image of a School Crossing Patrol personParents/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.)

Improved environment

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.

What walking related initiatives might feature in a School Travel Plan?

Cartoon image of people walking.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, parents etc.

  • Provide reflective clothing for those walking or cycling to school either at reduced rates or possibly free.
  • 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 schools.
  • 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.

Primary schoolsCartoon image of a family walking together.

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 School Travel Planning Team for further information on this. Alternatively, the Department for Transport provides guidance on how to set one up.
  • 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 Hampshire 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)

Secondary schools

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 already
  • 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 information section.

1 http://www.saferoutestoschools.org.uk
2 Travelling to School: An Action Plan.  Department for Transport (DfT), 2003
3 National Travel Survey, DfT, 2004
4 At least five a week, a report by the Chief Officer, April 2004
5 Cutting Your Car Use, Anna Semlyen, Green Books, 2003