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Step out and get walking to school, says Diane Davies

By Diane Davies | Woman | Published:

Angry parents are complaining about not being able to park on the school run. There’s a simple answer, says Diane Davies, Walk!

You have to get there 45 minutes before the bell to get a parking space,’ an irate mother lambasted in a radio interview as she complained about the amount of cars plaguing one West Midland school.

Strangely, her anger did not appear to be targeted at the many parents who insist on driving to school whatever the weather and the safety hazard they pose on the congested school run.

No, her wrath seemed to come from being denied a God-given right to park outside this school. Whilst complaining about the thoughtless drivers who abandon their vehicles on double yellow lines she never once suggested the very simple, safe solution – WALK TO SCHOOL.

I can recall receiving a letter from the primary school my children previously attended setting out how a car, trying to avoid congestion outside the building, had driven on the pavement and whacked a small child with its wing mirror. The letter asked parents not to drive on the pavement outside the school.

What kind of world are we living in where parents have to be asked not to drive on paths outside school because someone will get hurt???

The kind of world where 1,200 children a month are involved in accidents within 500m of their school, as one study found.

And the kind of world where around 35 per cent of children in their final primary school year are overweight or obese – can we assume many of these do not walk to school each day?

By 2050 it is predicted that 70 per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys will be overweight or obese, according to figures released by Sustrans, the charity making it easier to walk and cycle.

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So not only are parents unnecessarily putting children at risk by creating havoc on the school run they are also risking the health of their children through lack of exercise.

How many children at schools live so far away that they actually need to be driven there?

One in five cars on the road at peak time in the morning are on the school run, according to Goverment figures. While acording to a National Transport Survey in 2014, 76 per cent of primary school pupils have to travel less than two miles. Yet

According to a survey by Living Streets, the charity for everyday walking, half of those who drive their children to school live under a mile away.

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The charity says: “Walking to school is good for children’s health and the environment. We know that parents see the benefits of walking to school, including improvements in mood and behaviour in their children.

“From reduced congestion to higher footfall for local businesses, the whole community benefits when more children walk to school. However, the number of children walking has been in decline for decades.”

Living Streets is working with schools and parents to reverse this trend. It has already convinced the Government to have an objective to increase the proportion of five to 10 year-olds walking to school to 55 per cent by 2025.

Initiatives include the year-round Walk to School challenge in primary schools where pupils earn badges for walking in. May 22 is Happy Shoesday when children and parents put on special shoes and walk to school to raise funds. Also there are five-day and month-long walking challenges.

May 21-25 is Walk to School week this year which has been running since 1995 and last year saw 400,000 children taking part. If they can walk to school for a week why not a month, or a term? To find out more about Living Streets visit www.livingstreets.org.uk

Figures from NHS Digital show that 9.6 per cent of children in reception classes in 2016-17 were obese rising to one fifth of Year 6 children (aged 10-11). The statistics for more than one million pupils across England show 32.4 per cent of girls and 36.1 per cent of boys in the final primary school year are overweight or obese.

So our children are getting fatter, the roads more congested, accidents are happening – and I don’t even want to think about pollution levels.

Why exactly do so many parents insist on driving to school?

For health or practical reasons some parents may have to drive their children to school, but so many?

Think of the safety of your children – and mine – and WALK TO SCHOOL.

Diane Davies

By Diane Davies
@@didavies_star

MNA Group head of weekly titles, and former deputy editor of the Express & Star. Specialist interest in music and theatre scene with regular reviews from our wealth of top venues.

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