Covid-19 provides us with an opportunity to rethink the school run for pupils travelling to the 450 primary schools in Essex. Throughout what is a difficult and challenging time, it is possible to provide some routine to our daily lives by adopting an active travel approach. It will also allow families time in the outdoors, breathing in fresh air and getting some well needed vitamin D. The Council understands that it is not convenient or possible for all students to actively travel to school, mainly due to distance, but walking, scooting or cycling should be the default for many, whilst those living further away could park-and-stride.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Cabinet Member for Education said: “Physical activity for children and young people may never have been so important. The Chief Medical Officer in England recommends that children do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, yet there are currently 96,000 children in Essex not doing the recommended daily amount of exercise. The need for action against climate change is also a factor that must not be ignored. Active travel to school benefits us all and we hope that this toolkit will help improve active travel opportunities and create active communities across the county.”
Dr William Bird, GP and Physical Activity Advisor said: “The toolkit reflects the importance of physical activity which is an essential part of school life for every child. The time spent walking and cycling to school gives precious time when they can talk with their parents or catch up with their friends. It is also time to experience the seasons, notice nature and engage with the local people and culture in their neighbourhood. This lays down memories and provides security of belonging to a place. The excellent suggestions and ideas in this toolkit are key to creating a healthier child in the fullest sense.”
Behaviour change underpins everything; sustainable transport must be made easy, so that it becomes the norm and schools require support to implement various measures. From Stop.Swap.GO! and Bikeability to the Healthy Schools Programme and The Daily Mile™ the toolkit offers ideas and ways to implement these initiatives into the school and out to the pupils and their families.
Tracey Vickers, Head of Sustainable Transport for Essex County Council said: “Essentially children are our blueprint for the future, so if we can encourage them now to lead active lives, whether that be during the school day or on the journeys they do every day, they’re more likely to continue with these behaviours into their adults lives. We need to be brave and embrace a new way of thinking about transport – one which puts our vision of safer, greener, healthier at the forefront.”