The Welsh Government Minister for Active Travel, Rebecca Evans AM, joined pupils at Malpas Court Primary School, Newport, on Thursday 18 May to celebrate Walk to School Week and launch a brand new toolkit for schools. 

Walk to School Week (15-20 May) is run by Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, and aims to encourage families to walk to school every day throughout the week.

Rebecca Evans AM joined families on a walk to school before helping Strider, the Living Streets mascot, celebrate the successes of the children who have taken part in WOW [1] and Walk to School Week at a special assembly.

Experts advise our children should be active for at least 60 minutes a day to stay healthy, but only 20 per cent of five to 15 year olds are achieving this, and one in three children leaves primary school obese or overweight. Living Streets promotes walking to school as a free, accessible and easy way for children to get more active and stay healthy.

Issues such as traffic speeds, pavement parking and congestion around the school gates can put parents off walking to school. Living Streets Cymru recently completed a project on behalf of the Welsh Government to carry out School Route Audits of walking routes around three primary schools to identify issues which might be preventing families from walking to school.[2]

Since the audits, improvements have already been made, including markings repainted outside schools, litter picks as well as the introduction of WOW to increase and monitor walking rates, and the Welsh Government also commissioned the charity to develop a toolkit so other schools, local authorities or community groups can carry out their own review of walking routes and see how they might be improved.

The School Route Review Toolkit was also launched at the event, it is a step by step guide for schools and other groups to assess and identify issues for improvement on the walking routes to school.

Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Active Travel said:

“Walking to school is a great way for children and families to get active and stay healthy. Walking instead of driving can improve physical and mental health, reduce congestion and pollution and is a good opportunity for families to spend time together. 

“I am pleased that improvements have already been made to walking routes as a result of this project with Living Streets and I would encourage local authorities and schools across Wales to take advantage of this resource pack to ensure more families are able to experience the benefits that walking to school brings.”

Rachel Maycock, Wales Manager, Living Streets said:

“Creating safe walking routes and encouraging more children to walk to school is vital if we are to successfully tackle high levels of inactivity and help our children develop healthy habits for life.  

“We know that a lot of parents are put off walking to school because of high levels of traffic outside the school gates. The more of us walking to school, the safer conditions will be, so this week we’re asking families to give walking a go for Walk to School Week.

“Living Streets have developed the School Route Review Toolkit so that more people can get involved in improving the walking environment around schools.  We’ve used our experience from the audits at these three schools to develop case studies, look at the issues that stop people from walking to school and show what can be possible when a community comes together to increase walking.”

[1] WOW rewards primary school pupils who walk to school at least once a week with a monthly collectible badge.  Fo more information and the results of increased walking and reduced congestions visits https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/wow

[2] Audit areas: 1) St. Mellon’s Church in Wales Primary School / Pen y Bryn Primary School, Cardiff 2) Nant y Parc Primary School, Caerphilly 3) Malpas Court Primary School, Newport.