‘I need to make a volcano’! ‘I need a Greek costume!’ ‘I need to walk to school tomorrow!’
Being a parent is one of the most varied and challenging jobs in the world. No training course can fully prepare you. And when your child starts school there is a constant flow of homework projects, dress-up days and special initiatives which need your support.
So when your child asks if they can walk to school to earn a sticker, you may think it is not worth the effort of changing your ‘drive to school’ routine.
But it is about so much more. Here are some of the reasons your child’s school is making a big deal about a little sticker…
The Big Four
By law, local authorities in the UK have to promote sustainable school travel (eg walking to school).
The main reasons are:
- Less car travel is better for the environment
- Traffic congestion is reduced
- Air quality improves
- Walking is good for the health of children and their families.
Local authorities work in partnership with schools to do this.
Every school is different so each school can decide what initiatives they introduce to do this. Sticker reward schemes are popular as they are low-cost, easy and an effective way to motivate children. However they are just one of many ideas your child’s school can use.
I Have a Cunning Plan… a School Travel Plan
To make sure the school chooses schemes which will work for them, they put together a School Travel Plan first, usually with help from the local authority’s Sustainable Transport Team. This looks at features of the school and surrounding area (number of pupils, location, road safety issues etc). It includes views from parents (gathered from a survey beforehand), any schemes the school is already doing and finally an action plan for the initiatives the school will do… such as a sticker reward scheme.
Get On Board
Once the school has decided which initiatives to introduce they need to make sure everyone understands the scheme and why it is important. It’s easy to explain to the pupils (captive audience in assembly!) but reaching all the parents or whoever does the school run is more tricky for schools.
So if you feel you have been left out of the picture and you or other parents you know are still not sure why that sticker and walking to school is such a big deal, here are…
10 Reasons to Walk to School:
1. Safety First
Reducing congestion outside the school makes it safer for all children. Fewer cars mean the roads are safer and more parents are likely to let their children walk, which makes it even safer.
2. Cough, Cough, Splutter, Splutter
According to air quality experts at King’s College London, we are more exposed to pollution when sitting in a car than when walking! By reducing the number of car journeys, everyone will benefit from the reduction in emissions, particularly those prone to asthma.
3. Super Smart
Having some exercise before they start the school day makes children more alert, able to concentrate and ready to learn as proved in a study of Danish pupils… so walking will help your child to do well in the classroom.
4. Get Road-Sense
Children who regularly walk to school learn about road safety and how to cope near traffic when out and about in their own neighbourhood. Good road sense is a really important skill for life… and could one day save their life.
Walking to school chatting to a friend is such a good start to the day. Regularly walking means children see others from their neighbourhood and can build up good friendship bonds, especially once they are old enough to walk without adults. Sometimes older children are happy to ‘buddy’ walk with younger children which promotes friendships across different age groups; great for the younger child’s confidence.
6. Healthy Kids
We hear a lot about the obesity crisis and may feel the lack of activity in our lifestyles. But it can be hard to change our own habits when we have a comfy sofa and cosy car. However, over a year the miles walked to and from school really add up; so it’s a good way to introduce more regular activity into your and your child’s routine.
7. State of Independence
Walking to school regularly makes children less dependent on car travel… and less lazy! As they get older they will be more confident learning to cycle if they are used to traffic. Think ahead to your child becoming a teenager… do you want to be ‘taxi’ for every trip they take or do you want them to be healthier and more independent, able to cycle or walk to friends, school or work?
8. Under Pressure
Mornings can be tough, especially on school days and you really don’t need that request for a Greek costume five minutes before you leave the house (wrap them up in a sheet with a skipping rope for a belt and a sprig of leaves in their hair, does for ‘Roman day’ too). Anyway, it’s often a stressful time of day and driving can make it more so. Avoid the hassle of traffic jams and no parking spaces by walking instead.
9. Everybody Needs Good Neighbours
Your school will have a much better relationship within the community if it is doing something about traffic issues and, for example, parents aren’t regularly blocking driveways near the school.
10. We are the Champions
Schools which promote walking to school and sustainable travel really well can be credited for their success. Awards such as Modeshift STARS and Eco schools give schools, pupils and parents great public recognition for their achievements. This in turn can inspire other schools and increases pride in your school.
So… back to that sticker. Or it may be a badge. Or it may be a tick on a class chart for ‘how I got to school today’. Your child may get one every day for National Walk to School Week when they walk, or every Wednesday when they walk or anytime really. Whatever it is, whenever it is and however long it lasts it is so much more than what it seems; it could be the thing to kick off a walk to school habit which will affect their whole life.