Article written by Chris Roberts, Head of External Affairs, Sustrans Cymru
Sustrans Cymru launched Active Journeys in September 2015, with three year funding from Welsh Government. The programme is designed to support schools across Wales to increase the number of pupils using active modes of transport for the school run, a key area for delivering the aims of the Assembly’s Active Travel Act.
We know that only 35% of children are getting the recommended hour of physical activity every day. Walking or cycling to school is a practical way for children to be more physically active every day, and brings with it a whole range of other benefits to children’s health and wellbeing, not least a greater readiness to learn. Other benefits when fewer children are driven to school include a reduction in traffic congestion and C02 emissions. Many head teachers share with us (and you!) their frustrations about traffic congestion at the school gates.
Through the programme, around 100 primary schools who haven’t been part of a Sustrans Cymru initiative previously will receive direct support from a Sustrans schools officer to enable them to create a culture of active travel at their school. This will involve schools appointing champions who will liaise directly with Sustrans to identify the help we can provide through advice and practical resources which allow the school to develop a school action plan. The programme will equip teachers with the essential skills to deliver bespoke training to their students by providing practical teacher training to ensure schools are able to continue to deliver the programme once support from Sustrans decreases.
All schools in Wales are also invited to access a new active travel ‘advice service’ via the Sustrans website, Twitter, Facebook, email, phone or post. The service will proactively promote useful information and practical activities as well as respond to direct queries from schools about the practicalities of enabling children to travel by bike, scooter or on foot to school.
Sustrans will also work with pupils from a selected number of secondary schools to obtain their views on active travel infrastructure in their area. These consultations, which will be carried out over the course of the three year programme, will inform local authorities in their duty to create Active Travel Act Integrated Network maps and in their delivery of Safe Routes in Communities projects. The support for this programme is particularly welcome as it recognises the importance of investing in the promotion of active travel, rather than just capital investment. It is vital that the two are linked if we are to see the desired increase in active travel.
The programme makes available a range of bilingual material for schools to use in lessons and assemblies, the key resources are:
Most of our material is available online only – schools tell us they prefer electronic information. The online resources are available at: www.sustrans.org.uk/wales/education
A key feature of the new programme will be the School Mark accreditation scheme which will be available to any school in Wales. Schools will be able to track their own progress through three levels of achievement. School Mark has been a very popular scheme throughout the UK and we’re proud that Wales is leading the rest of the UK in making the resource on line. The new bilingual School Mark website with full details of how schools can apply will be launched in April 2016. Active Journeys will take full advantage of designated days and weeks connected with active travel for schools. The key dates for this year are:
Date / Event
A head teacher’s view of the programme:
Sue Hurry, Head Teacher at Coychurch Primary School said The support, guidance and encouragement we have received from Sustrans has certainly helped us to dramatically increase the number of children that walk, cycle and scoot to school at Coychurch Primary. The launch of Active Journeys will help us to build on this development and encourage more pupils and families to travel to school in an active and healthy way.’
We hope you have found this information useful. We would be delighted to hear your comments, positive or negative, about our programme, so that we can improve it. Please e-mail comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to discuss Sustrans Cymru’s work with schools, or more generally, please contact the Sustrans Cymru head office on (029) 20650602.