Walking, Cycling, and Scooting Back to School

For this week’s eco-Thursday focus, we’ll be looking at how students can get to school in more environmentally friendly ways. Many schools have had Walk to School weeks for many years, focusing on the benefits for students’ health and to reduce congestion around school gates in the mornings and evenings. Nearly half of parents of primary school children are worried about pollution levels near their schools, and evidence has shown that the numbers of children walking to school have steadily reduced over the past few decades.

But what is the evidence for the benefits of walking, cycling, or scooting to the environment and for students’ physical and mental wellbeing?

In April 2020 the General London Assembly launched an initiative called School Streets, whereby the roads around schools in London were closed to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times. 350 streets have been closed around schools since the inception of the project, with the aim of reducing air pollution and improving children’s health. Children are able to walk and cycle more safely in the roads around the schools, and congestion is also reduced. Air quality sensors have been installed at 18 primary schools partaking in the programme which showed that nitrogen dioxide levels were reduced by up to 23%. In addition, an evaluation survey showed that 77% of parents and carers supported the initiative staying in place long-term, and that School Streets reduced car travel by 18% near these schools.

Enough CO2 is released by the average drive to and from school to fill over 60 balloons. More children than ever are being diagnosed with asthma, especially in cities, and nearly 40,000 premature deaths every year are attributable to air pollution in the UK. What’s more, a shocking 60% of 1-2 mile journeys made in England are by car. Cycling, scooting, and walking are great for children’s health. With rising obesity and increasingly static lifestyles, using the school commute is a fantastic opportunity to get active.

There are several ideas and initiatives ongoing around the UK to support children, parents, and carers to choose an active mode of transport to get to
school. These include:

  • Walking Buses: a ‘bus’ of children is collected from various stops on a route to school, with a ‘driver’ (parent) at the front and a ‘conductor’ (another parent) at the back to support safe walking. These buses are a great way to support children socialising, staying active, and reducing pollution.
  • Living Streets Programmes: the Walk to School, Walking Cities, and Park and Stride programmes are coordinated by Living Streets, the UK’s walking charity. These initiatives offer different ways to encourage families and friends to walk to school – whether that’s by parking slightly further away and walking the last stretch to school, or organising a week or month long ‘Walk to School’ competition.
  • Bikeability or Cycling Proficiency Schemes: these are programmes which help young people develop their cycling skills to be safe on the road and feel confident cycling to and from school. Local and City Councils also have some of their own schemes which provide similar opportunities to help children learn how to cycle safely and stay active. Have a look at your Council’s website to see if there are any options for your school!

James is the Chief Executive officer of Ormiston Trust. He has worked as an organisation advisor in the private, public and voluntary sectors, helping organisations to grow sustainably over the medium to long term. He has helped charities for over 20 years in the fields of strategic development, partnership setup, programme and project delivery.

Poppy is the Youth Engagement and Partnership Officer at Ormiston Trust, responsible for coordinating our team of Young Advisors and developing effective working relationships with external organisations. She is currently studying ‘Politics, International Studies and Global Sustainable Development’ at Warwick University and previously worked as Board Advisor for a non-profit youth-focused organisation in Croydon. She has experience in activism work – attending COP26 with environmental education company Force of Nature and had been a member of the UK Youth Parliament for many years, speaking on environmental issues in the House of Commons for its ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign.

Genéa is the Communications and Events Coordinator at Ormiston Trust. She plays an integral role in overseeing the communications and media strategy – along with leading the content development for internal and external comms and PR across the Trust and the #WeWill programme. As well as supporting all event planning across campaigns, including the delivery of comms workshops with the Youth Advisory Council. 

She has worked predominantly in broadcasting PR, comms and editorial and now works as a narrative designer alongside her work since completing her MA in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins. 

Fiona is the Grants Assistant at Ormiston Trust and in her role she supports the Grants team. Previously, she worked in the City for 10 years, firstly as a dealer on the floor of the London Stock Exchange and then as an equity salestrader.  

Samia is a business and ICT Teacher with over 20 years of leadership experience in Education, working with leaders from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 5. Her experience has ranged from working as an Acting Head Teacher to a Deputy for an Education Trust. Some of the key highlights from her education career have included building schools and setting up education provisions, including a teaching school, and winning several National awards. Samia is passionate about ensuring the young people in her care have the best possible experience and has always led by example by sending her own children to the schools she has been a part of.

Ray leads the youth engagement, partnerships and fundraising work streams at Ormiston Trust, in particular having strategic oversight of how we as an organisation can embed the voices of our young people in everything we do, and how we can work with partner organisations to maximise shared outcomes and opportunities.

His background is in community project development and funding, having worked with charities, schools, and local authorities in East Anglia to develop a plethora of projects including primary-secondary school transition, award-winning youth amateur theatre, social prescribing in rural GP practices, and youth commissioning boards, for which he was recognised as a Prime Minister’s Point of Light.

Ray is a global health and medicine graduate, alongside his work at Ormiston, he is a hospital doctor and public health academic. He is also an #iWill Ambassador and national #iWill Partnership Board member.

Anne is Finance Manager at Ormiston Trust and has worked for Ormiston Trust for over 30 years, overseeing the property portfolio and asset management. She combines her work at the Trust with voluntary community work and has raised thousands of pounds to enhance leisure and education opportunities for young people in disadvantaged communities. 

Karlene is Finance Manager at Ormiston Trust and has been handling the Financial Management of Ormiston Trust since 2014. Her background is in Financial Services with 20 years working in the industry and she has a passion for systems, processes and spreadsheets to enable good finance management. 

Aneela is the Head of Education at Ormiston Trust. Prior to joining Ormiston Trust, she was Head of Professional Development and School Improvement at Beaconhouse Group, overseeing the professional development of over 8000 teachers and implementing systems for school improvement across 200 international schools, in the Southeast region. Prior to this, she worked at Universities in the UAE, where she taught on the Bachelor of Education and Diploma programmes, and previous to this she was a Lead Advisor for Nord Anglia Education services, working with head teachers and principals to raise educational standards across schools in Abu Dhabi.

Melissa is a Programme Management Officer at Ormiston Trust. In her role she supports the #WeWill programme management, and works closely with the monitoring & evaluation, social action toolkit & skills, and youth engagement teams. She completed her undergraduate degree in International Development at the University of Sussex, and her postgraduate degree in Global Health and Development at UCL. Over the last eight years, she has dedicated much of her time to working with non-profit organisations in the UK, Nigeria, China, and Tanzania.