The results of the annual National Travel Survey released today (26 July) show a decrease in the number of children in England walking to school.  51 per cent of primary school children aged 5-10 walk to school, down from 53 per cent the previous year.

The Government set its first ever target (in April 2017) to increase the proportion of primary school children walking to school to 55 per cent by 2025, with funds from the soft drinks industry levy ‘sugar tax’ boosting the PE and Sports Premium available for schools to invest in active travel initiatives.

Living Streets, the charity behind the walk to school campaign is urging schools to invest this money to support more families to walk to school, helping to reduce inactivity, childhood obesity and the risk on children’s health caused by toxic air.

Children walk to school

The number of children walking to school is down significantly from a generation ago when 70 per cent walked to primary school. However, the walking charity says this doesn’t have to be the case and currently works successfully with over 2,000 schools across the UK running WOW – the year-round walk to school challenge.

At the end of the 2017/18 academic year, 85 per cent of journeys logged on the WOW Travel Tracker were recorded as active – children walking, cycling or using Park and Stride.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive, Living Streets said: 

“Walking is the healthiest, most environmentally friendly way to make short journeys. Yet many car journeys a year are less than two miles.

“While numbers walking to school have been falling, a third of children are leaving primary school overweight or obese, with just one in five meet the recommended physical activity levels.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Living Streets is working successfully to increase walking with over 2,000 schools across the UK running WOW – the year-round walk to school challenge. Last year, 85% of journeys logged on the WOW Travel Tracker were recorded as active. Schools can now use the ‘sugar tax’ to support such schemes.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive, Living Streets

The National Travel Survey also reveals that whilst the overall number of walking journeys is slightly up, one in five adults (19%) don’t walk for 20 minutes at least once a year.

Last month, Greater Manchester unveiled an innovative new plan to create a cycling and walking network of more than 1,000 miles. In London, the Mayor’s Walking Action Plan and Transport Strategy focuses on creating streets that encourage walking, cycling and public transport to ‘reduce car dependency and the health problems it creates’.

Living Streets wants other towns and cities to follow their lead and invest in more walking.

Joe continued:

“It’s vital that our towns and cities are built around people, not vehicles so people are able to swap short car journeys for daily walks.

“With more of us needing to travel further for work or school, it’s more important than ever that walking is the natural choice for our short, everyday journeys.”