As schools in England and Wales start inviting more pupils back this month, with Scotland doing the same from August, our Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Francesca Marzullo, outlines tools and guidance to help make this happen more safely.
As the UK charity for everyday walking, we have promoted the importance of walking to school for over twenty years. During normal times, the walk to school is the single most accessible way to reduce congestion and pollution outside the school gates, while increasing the safety and improving physical and mental wellbeing of pupils. Now that we are taking steps out of the COVID 19 lockdown and looking to the future, walking to school and its countless benefits have become more important than ever.
It is vital measures are put in place so everyone who can, walks to school safely, without putting themselves and others at risk.
As we are still being asked to practise physical distancing when outside our homes, the government is highlighting the importance of this also happening during school drop-off and pick-up times. Further down we’ll be looking at effective and systemic approaches you and your school can adopt to make this happen, but first, let’s flesh out some useful reminders and tips:
1. On your journey to school, where possible, maintain two metres distance from others.
2. Where safe physical distancing is not possible, if you can, use a face covering.
3. Wash or sanitise your hands before and after your journey to school.
4. Plan ahead your route.
5. If you have no alternative to public transport, refer to this infographic for guidance.
6. Consider staggered drop-off and pick-up times to limit the number of people approaching the school gates at the same time.
7. Use tape, posters, cones, or stencils to mark the road to remind families about keeping a safe distance from others. Here you can find downloadable government posters and shareables.
8. Encourage families who are coming back to school to walk their journey using our Walk Back To School shareable.
We all know how crowded and unsafe the school gates can get at certain times, with cars driving right up to the school gates, parking on the pavement and on the zig zag road markings. How can we ensure physical distancing happens safely when roads outside schools are often dominated by cars?
6 out of 10 parents
are concerned about
1. School Streets, safer crossings, and lower speed limits
In the UK, responsibility for public roads is held by the highway authority. The highway authority is usually the county council or unitary authority. As a school or family, you can ask your council to take action towards making the roads around school safer. We have created an online letter writing tool to allow you to contact your local councillors and tailor the letter to your school’s needs.
Now is the time to take action as the government is encouraging the introduction of School Streets and expecting councils to make significant changes to make streets safer for physical distancing (e.g. re-allocating road space to make pavements wider, or modal filtering to stop rat-running in your neighbourhood).
2. Walking zones
A walking zone is a defined area around the school, within which children and families are encouraged to walk rather than drive. Families who live in, or near, the walking zone are encouraged to walk to and from school every day. These can be informal, semi-formal, or formal. Those who live further away, and choose to drive or take public transport, are asked to park or hop off outside the zone and walk the rest of their journey. Check out our guide on how to set up walking zones.
3. park and stride
To reduce the number of cars driving up to the school gates, families who live far away from school can try Park and Stride. Simply plan your journey ahead to find a suitable parking place around ten minutes’ walk from school and walk from there.
Pupils in Year 6 will be starting to think about how they will travel to their new secondary school. We have a new journey activity sheet available on our Transitions page to help with planning their new route to school while keeping safe and sticking to physical distancing guidance.
What can older people do this National Walking Month to keep walking, keep active and keep well?
Mental Health Ambassadors at a school in South Gloucestershire tell us how walking is helping their wellbeing.