Living Streets, the charity behind the UK’s biggest walk to school programme, is urging families to leave the car at home as schools reopen.

With schoolchildren in England due back on Monday (8 March), the charity is warning against a return to traffic which sees one in four cars on the road at peak hours being on the school run.

Mary Creagh, Chief Executive, Living Streets says: 

“Every child should be able to walk to school safely and enjoy the fresh air, freedom, friendship and fun that it brings. This right is denied to the thousands of children attending schools in pollution hotspots.

“A return to school must not mean a return to dangerous, dirty, congested streets. By swapping the school run for a school walk, families can help their child stay healthy, happy and active.”

Girls walking to school

Living Streets currently runs WOW – its year-round walk to school programme in over 2,000 schools nationwide. On average, WOW schools see a 23 per cent increase in pupils walking to school and a 30 per cent drop in cars driving all the way to the school gates, with teachers reporting that pupils who arrive on foot are more alert and ready to learn.

Living Streets is able to offer WOW to an additional 250 schools across England, after being awarded £1 million by the Department for Transport to help more children walk to school in September 2020.

The Government funding will ensure schools are equipped with classroom materials and access to project coordinators who can help the schools get up and running.

During lockdown, thousands of schoolchildren have been staying active at home thanks to Living Streets’ WOW Activity Tracker. The Tracker has allowed children to log their daily physical activity, whether that’s a walk with family or skipping at home, with those who met the level of activity set by their school being given a monthly award.

Living Streets is calling on candidates in upcoming local and Mayoral elections to pledge to make school streets safe to encourage and enable more families to walk to school. Living Streets’ A Manifesto for Walking includes a series of asks including a default 20mph speed limit, more and better crossings, and at least one School Street in every ward – closing off streets to cars at drop off and pick up times. More information can be found at livingstreets.org.uk/elections2021.