As more pupils prepare to return to education in September, a North East school is encouraging parents and children to get more active and improve the air quality and safety around schools.
The Federation of Mowden Schools, in Darlington, has been working with Modeshift STARS, a national schools awards scheme recognising excellence in supporting sustainable travel, to create a ‘walking bubble’ around the school for students.
The bubbles are part of Modeshift STARS’ latest initiative, #StaySafeGetActive, which enables any registered school to create a walking zone map to support them with their re-opening whilst encouraging social distancing outside of the school gates.
Nick Butler, Modeshift STARS accreditation manager, said: “We would like as many schools as possible to create a #StaySafeGetActive walking bubble around their school, ensuring that children and their families can enjoy a safer and more active journey to school.
“Everyone where possible should walk, cycle or scoot to school. Where families must travel by car, we’d like them find a safe place to park at least five minutes away from the school gates and walk for the final few metres to create a car-free zone.”
The initiative, which will be rolled out nationally before the end of the school holidays, has been launched on the back of research that found that only 51 per cent of primary children walk to school, compared to 70 per cent a generation ago. The Modeshift STARS team also hope it will build on the positive effect of the recent lockdown on air quality; research has found that pollutants from vehicle emissions are linked to rising levels of heart disease, as well as increasing the severity of Covid-19 infections.
Nick added: “We feel that this is the ideal time to launch the walking bubbles as, during lockdown, more people than ever were taking a daily walk, scoot or bike ride. Furthermore, with the reduction in traffic on the roads, the air quality improved dramatically with some cities seeing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels falling by up to 60 per cent.
“In addition to the recognised benefits of active travel, fewer cars around the school gates will mean that there is plenty of space for families to follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines.”
Peter King, headteacher of the Federation of Mowden Schools, added: “We’re delighted to be working with the Modeshift STARS Team to establish the first ever walking bubble scheme in England.
“One of the positive consequences of the coronavirus was people respecting the environment and appreciating the local area more. During lockdown it’s been really fun having our daily walks so at our school, we want to build walking into what we do. Each of our families is responsible for securing a more sustainable future, ensuring that our environment is better for all of our community.”
Modeshift STARS work with educational establishments across the country to develop and implement School Travel Plans, which include a range of initiatives to encourage sustainable and active travel on the journey to school.
Paralympian and Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region Dame Sarah Storey has been working with schools in partnership with the STARS South Yorkshire team.
She said: “As more pupils return to the classroom we have an opportunity to transform the school run, and this fantastic new ‘walking bubble’ tool from Modeshift STARS will enable children to walk to school safely, or park and stride the last leg of their journey.
“I hope this scheme is taken up by schools across the country and I hope the children of the Federation of Mowden Schools enjoy their walks to school.”
For more information and tips on how to create a walking bubble, visit https://www.modeshiftstars.org/staysafegetactive/