Children urged to walk to school

As pupils across Scotland prepare to go back to school, national charity Living Streets is calling for a new focus on getting children active as figures released over the summer holidays show that walking to school is at its lowest ever levels.

Over the past decade, the number of children who walk to school in Scotland has dropped from approximately 56% to 46%, with 23% and rising being driven to school in cars.

As pupils return to school this week for another academic year, Living Streets is calling on local and national government to set targets to reverse this decline.

National charity Living Streets works to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets around the UK. They run the highly successful Walk to School campaign, which encourages over 1.6 million children, parents and teachers to give walking to school a go.

As it stands, around one in four cars on the road at peak times in the morning is on the school run and around the school gates the ever increasing numbers of cars poses a real danger to child pedestrians.

Living Streets is working with schools across Scotland to increase walking and active travel for all or part of the school journey.

Keith Irving, Living Streets Scotland Manager said: “The summer holidays have seen publication of figures showing that walking to school is at its lowest ever levels but also major new guidelines on physical activity recommending every child gets a minimum of one hour’s physical activity.

“Local and national government should be setting targets to reverse the decline in numbers of children walking to school and providing support for schools to help pupils meet these guidelines, starting with establishing park and stride points to help pupils arrive safely and healthy at school and tackle school gate congestion .

“The new health guidance specifically calls for “Breaking up sedentary time such as swapping a long bus or car journey for walking part of the way”

“Many schools and councils have attempted to tackle this problem. As pupils go back to school, it’s time to redouble our efforts aligned with genuine targets. We need to take action now to make children more physically active, to prevent storing up health problems later in life.”

Thousands of Scottish pupils will this year be taking part in the largest regular walk to school reward scheme in the world, ‘Walk once a Week’ (WOW) once they return to school. Each year, the Living Streets’ WOW campaign gets more than 320,000 children across the UK to walk to school, with pupils recording how often they walk and winning a badge if they walk four times or more in a month.