Parent led initiatives can really make a difference and improve school life. By making your school run more sustainable you will have a positive impact on kids, families and your community before anyone even reaches the school gates.
Active journeys include walking, scooting and cycling. Get it right and you will reduce congestion, air pollution, traffic risk and your carbon footprint. Families will save money, improve fitness and share more quality time. Children will learn vital road safety skills, improve their local knowledge, develop wider social networks and gradually build independence. It’s a win, win, win, win, win… you get the picture.
You need to pull together a team, engage the whole school community and make a plan. For best results, collaborate with the head teacher, pupils and governors. Seek advice from your local authority’s school travel team; they’ll have invaluable advice, case studies and resources. Consult your eco-schools or healthy schools co-ordinator if you have one. Work together to develop your strategy.
Identifying the current situation is key. A travel survey is a good place to start. Quiz families about how they travel to school, any barriers to active journeys and their ideas for improvement. You’ll have an accurate picture and a benchmark to measure your success if you repeat the survey once your plans have been put into action.
Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related) targets. Active journeys are a hot topic; you’ll pick up ideas from around the globe with a quick online search. Develop initiatives, explore funding and devise a communications plan.
Get the message?
Keep your school community informed. Share the survey findings, summarise the issues, set out your targets, explain how your school community can achieve them and, most importantly, stress the benefits.
Spread the word through newsletters, assemblies and sign up to national events like Sustrans’ Big Pedal and Living Streets’ Walk to School campaign. Inspirational talks from athletes, celebrities, cycling and rambling club heroes can build interest. Screen footage from the last Olympics and show men and women excelling in the bike saddle.
Teachers can creatively embed school travel into the curriculum. There’s a wealth of lesson plans and free resources online. Let kids know that you’ll be rolling out rewards for active journeys and will be unleashing activities to inspire, motivate and teach them new skills.
Time to roll out your bright ideas! Give pupils daily rewards to incentivise active journeys. Build towards an end-of-week treat with a stamp in a 'passport' or stickers on a class chart. Visit www.livingstreets.org.uk for low-cost resources.
Promote walking by publicising safer routes or get on board with your own walking bus. Scooter safety training and suitable storage will encourage young ones. To encourage cycling, commit to providing secure bike sheds. Improve bike confidence with Bikeability training, bike maintenance and courses and partnerships with cycling clubs.
Ensure bus companies are meeting students’ needs. If there are issues regarding timings, capacity or reliability, it’s much easier (and has more impact) if you address concerns as a group.
If car journeys are unavoidable, suggest car-pooling or parking a distance from the school and walking the remainder. Campaign for road traffic improvements and school crossing patrols in high-risk areas. Enlist help to tackle any dog fouling problems.
From participation to integration
Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Transform your school run. Embrace more sustainable travel so that it just becomes part of your school’s culture.
Remember to reiterate your active travel message each year. Repeat successful ventures. Keep measuring your progress and sharing your results.
Take a look at these websites for more top tips and inspiration.