With over 350 pupils entering a small cul-de-sac every morning, the children were determined to see how they could encourage more families to walk to school.

School children walking with supervisors

WHAT HAPPENED?

On Monday, the pupils walked around the school periphery and identified the muddy paths, flooding and busy roads as reasons why they didn't like to walk to school. However they loved walking through the woods when they could because there was always so much wildlife to see.

The following day, two local councillors, several residents, the local vicar and a member of staff walked the same route, suggesting possible solutions and offering their own views. They were keen to find out the pupils’ concerns and take a look for themselves.

The path through the woods means we don’t have to walk down the busy road, and we get to have fun playing with the leaves. Mum doesn’t like me walking here in the winter because my shoes get so muddy!

YEAR 5 PUPIL, HARRY

WHAT HANNAH SAYS…

Westfield Primary School is in a difficult area, surrounded by a nursery, an adult education centre and residential streets. It currently caters for around 370 pupils and is due to expand in September.

It was really important to gather the views of the pupils and community members, to hear how they experience walking and the issues they face. We are also in the process of gathering parental views to gain as wide a perspective as possible!

It was fantastic to have so many community members come along to the audit, and their input was hugely valuable. They overcame political differences to put their local area and the children first, and as a result suggested a range of potential solutions that will enable many more people to walk to and from school safely and enjoyable.

We found out on the audit that a partnership with Surrey Wildlife Trust means that money has become available for some local improvements to the woods. Plans are already underway to re-lay the muddy footpath using ‘hoggin’, a compactable groundcover that is lower maintenance than gravel and does not easily hold water. It is also more in-keeping with the surrounding environment.

When I walk down here when it has been raining, the cars always splash me and my tights get wet.

YEAR 6 PUPIL, ZOE

EXCITING NEWS!

The group were also keen to introduce traffic calming measures on one of the roads leading to the school, and were considering a crossing at a key point along the main Westfield Road.

It was a powerful reminder that passionate people can create change, that the streets in which we live are a uniting force for communities and that simply having their views listened to can make such a difference to local people. I am looking forward to informing the children about plans for the woodland path and watching how this affects the number of families choosing to walk to school!

I am delighted that Living Streets took the trouble to walk and talk with local residents who want to encourage walking to school and help reduce the local traffic problems.

LOCAL COUNCILLOR AND DEPUTY MAYOR OF WOKING, DEREK McCRUM

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