NEXT STEPS is Living Streets’ walking challenge for students transitioning to secondary school.

There are two easy to run and fun touch-points for the Next Steps Challenge with engaging, top quality educational resources for every student.

Step one is run on transitions day at secondary school in the summer term and includes a workshop and supporting leaflet which encourages students to think about how to get to their new school safely and actively. Discussion with parents and carers at home is encouraged with a take home magnet.

Step two involves additional targeted messaging about why walking to school is important to run through in an assembly with new students and a further walking challenge is given out to complete at home.

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1. Mental health

By 2020 every secondary school will need to teach students about how to look after their mental health, with a focus on promoting the positive link between physical and mental health.

Next Steps encourages walking and cycling as main methods of travel to secondary school – both of which have been shown to reduce feelings of stress and reduce the risk of developing depression (by up to 30%).

2. Physical health

20% of 11 year olds are obese. Next Steps encourages this age group to think about how to fit more physical activity into their journey to school. What better time to fit in exercise, especially with PE hours having reduced by 20% in secondary schools over the past five years.

3. Independence

At secondary school, children begin making their daily journey alone. In fact, 37% of students travel independently, so having road safety skills is vitally important. Next Steps encourages students to discuss and think about their new journey with their parents and carers and suggests trying the route to school during summer holidays to ensure new students are prepared and safe.

4. Reduces congestion and pollution

More students travelling by foot or bike, or walking the last 10 minutes to school (as Next Steps suggests) means fewer cars outside the school gates. This improves safety in close proximity of the school and improves the air quality for all.

For parents

Starting secondary school is a big event in an 11 year old’s life – and that of their parents or carers. It signals the start of a new chapter and one that generally comes with gained independence and longer journeys.

To help make the transition to secondary school easier, here are some things to consider about your child’s journey to their new school:

1. Map it out: Before your child starts secondary school map out their route. If they can, travelling on foot or by bike is a great way to help your child be more physically active every day. Google Maps is an easy and convenient way to map out routes. Cycle Streets’ journey planner helps find quieter routes for cycling. City Mapper is a further option if you live in a city.

2. Try it out: If you can, make a practise journey to school. How long does it take? Is there a nicer or safer route that you can find? Consider all and make a decision about which route your child wants to take.

3. Talk about it: Remind your child about the key elements of road safety; waiting for the green man to cross the road, using crossings to cross the road, where pedestrians/cyclists have the right of way. If in doubt use Highway Code guidance on the website. Encourage your child to talk to you about any issues on their journey, and discuss what they should do if something unexpected happens. 

4. Prepare for it: If you and your child are keen to be active on the route to school, make sure they are prepared for their chosen way of travelling. Remember, it’s not about the weather, it’s about what you wear! Ensure your child has a waterproof or umbrella to hand for those rainy days. If your child is travelling by bike, they might need a helmet, lock, lights and suitable clothing.

5. Improve it: If you consider your child’s journey to school to be unsafe or unattractive, why not join us to campaign for better streets? Our local groups have experience success all over the UK in improving theirs – you can too.

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Two children walking