Politicians joined pupils and parents to put their best foot forward during this year’s Walk to School Week, which continues until tomorrow (Friday).
Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith and the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing Councillor Hazel Malcolm accompanied families as they walked to Woodfield Infant and Junior School in Penn today (Thursday).
It was in support of Walking to School Week, organised by Living Streets, which encourages pupils and parents to swap the school run for a school walk – either by leaving the car at home or parking further away from the school and walking the rest of the way.
Experts recommend that children are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight, and walking to school is an easy way to achieve some of these active minutes. Children who travel actively to school will arrive feeling refreshed and ready to learn.
At the same time, around a quarter of cars on the road during the morning rush hour are taking children to school – this causes daily traffic congestion problems and adds to air pollution and increased fears about road safety outside schools.
Mrs Smith said: “It’s important to make sure our children are healthy, and walking to school is a fantastic way of doing this. When children are doing any form of exercise, particularly in the morning, their performance at school is much better and they are able to concentrate much more.”
Councillor Malcolm added: “We have a well-documented issue with childhood obesity in Wolverhampton, and as a City we are trying to work together with parents and communities to get children more active.
“Simple things done consistently can have a big impact on childhood obesity and walking to school is an effective way in which parents can increase their child’s activity levels, as well as help their emotional wellbeing and stimulate learning. In addition, it helps reduce road traffic and road pollution, which again is beneficial for children.”
Woodfield Junior School Headteacher Philip Salisbury said: “This is something we are very happy to get involved with and which the children have really enjoyed.
“Walking to school is a good chance to give children the opportunity to do some exercise each and every day. At the same time, traffic congestion outside the school is becoming an increasing a problem. Our residents and neighbours also have to put up with a lot of traffic twice a day during term time, and so we are keen do to anything which will help alleviate the issue.”
Tom Richards, Living Streets Coordinator for West Midlands, said: “The children were excited to greet Eleanor Smith and tell her about why they enjoy walking to school.
“Woodfield Junior School take part in WOW, Living Streets’ year-round walk to school challenge, and have really embraced increasing the number of pupils walking.”
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden will be supporting Walk to School Week when he takes part in a walk to Loxdale Primary School tomorrow (Friday).
Meanwhile, the councillor who led a scrutiny review of the age-old problem of dangerous and inconsiderate parking outside schools last year, is also backing the campaign.
Councillor Ian Angus, who chaired the recent review by the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Vibrant and Sustainable Communities Scrutiny Panel into the issue of parking around schools, said: "This campaign is about encouraging people to make small changes that will have an impact in reducing traffic problems around our schools and help create a better environment for everyone.
"The scrutiny review found that nearly half of people make journeys by car which they admit could easily be completed by walking.
“Increasing the number of parents who walk their children to school rather than drive will reduce levels of congestion and improve the health of children. We hope that pupils and parents who are taking the time to walk to school this week will see for themselves the benefits of doing so, and make it part of their regular daily routine in the future."
Schools in Wolverhampton which would like to work with Living Streets to promote walking to their pupils and families are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org