By Eluned Nicholls of Northampton Living Streets
May 15th to May 19th was Living Streets’ National Walk to School Week in 2023. Kingsthorpe Parish Council and Northampton Town Council both offered to sponsor participating schools in their areas by buying the packs of classroom and advertising materials produced by Living Streets to support the event.
A generation ago 70% of primary school children walked to school. By 2018 it had dropped to 51%. The school run had become a part of our lives, congesting our roads, and polluting the air we breathe. Today 1 in 4 cars on the road at peak times are on the school run. Walking to school would reduce the amount of traffic on our roads and improve air quality. It would also provide healthy exercise for pupils.
UK Chief Medical Officers recommend children do 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily exercise. Walking to school (or cycling, scooting or other form of active travel), would help stave off the childhood obesity crisis where almost 30% of children in the UK are overweight or obese (ONS 2018). It would also reduce the likelihood of children developing conditions in adulthood such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart and lung problems (Atkins, 2018).
Walking to school helps give children a sense of mental as well as physical well-being. Over half of parents interviewed in 2016 said that their child’s mood always or sometimes improves after walking to school (OnePoll, 2016). Children often concentrate far better after walking to school. Their spatial awareness, and their understanding of their local areas, as well as of traffic risks, are also increased.
There are so many good reasons for walking to school. 1500 schools nationwide took up the challenge of walk to school week this year, including 12 in Northampton and Kingsthorpe, but we need all schools to be actively encouraging their pupils to walk to school every week of the school year.
As well as a Walk to School Week, Living Streets have an all year round walk to school challenge with an activity tracker and badges to support children’s efforts. If you would like to know more, please visit:
Walk for your children’s health and the health of the planet.