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Should your kids walk to school?

by Glyn Dodwell

It’s walk to school week here in the UK. Get Outside Champion Glyn Dodwell shares some startling facts on the costs of driving your kids to school.

It's walk to school week here in the UK. Get Outside Champion Glyn Dodwell shares some startling facts on the costs of driving your kids to school.

We are continually being bombarded with reports issued by Public Health England, or other similar organisations regarding the decreasing state of the nation’s health. One of the most significant concerns is about obesity levels in children and the state of their mental health.

A major contributory factor to this is the proportion of children being driven to school every day. The hard facts make unpleasant reading but do put the problem into perspective.

• Half our kids are driven to school by parents – often less than ½ mile (PHE).
• That means that about 8.3 million school children are involved in the school run every day.
• Parents in the UK drive an average of 600 miles a year for the school run, costing over £300 a year in fuel and wear and tear on the car.
• During the rush hour, 1 in 5 vehicles are being used for the school run.

For whatever reason, we have got into the habit of driving our kids to school, even if it is only half a mile away. Its crazy – I witnessed someone leave their house and drive about 400m to the school where, due to parking restrictions and congestion, they had to drive a little further to park. Before walking about 400m back to the school with their child!
In the UK, between 1991 and 2002, the proportion of primary school children walking to school declined from 60% to 51%, with a corresponding increase in those being taken by car from 29% to 41% (Department for Transport).

This comes at a high cost because over one in five boys (21.8%) and above one in four girls (27.5%) were either overweight or obese. Yet changing the way we travel to school can improve their overall fitness and health.

So what’s the answer? – It’s simple!

Leave the car at home and walk the kids to the school. You may even find that it is quicker due to no parking issues.

Children who walk to school regularly are less at risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis when they are older. But 4 out of every 10 boys and 6 out of every 10 girls are active for less than one hour a day.

I know many parents are fearful of allowing their children out alone due to a risk of assault and abduction. Yet the chances of being fatally knocked down by a car, on the way to school, are 40 times greater than being abducted.

In one positive action you, as a parent, could improve your child’s health, improve your child’s learning ability, reduce pollution, enhance safety around our schools, and save yourself hundreds of pounds a year (even if you don’t need too).

Remember #CanTheCar – #WalkToSchool

You can find out more information on the CanTheCar Website.

It's walk to school week here in the UK. Get Outside Champion Glyn Dodwell shares some startling facts on the costs of driving your kids to school.

Editor's Note

Do you agree with Glyn that more of us should walk our kids to school? Do you walk your kids to school, or would you if you could? We’d love to hear peoples views and about the barriers that prevent kids walking to school. Please let us know in the comments below!

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17 comments

Jenny May 23, 2018 - 10:20 am

We only live a couple of blocks away from the school they will go to so I will most likely walk them to and from school. When I was a kid we would be dropped off at school but would walk the 25 mins home. We were all taught about safety and what to do if we felt unsafe. I think more parents need to allow their children the independence.

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About Getting Out May 23, 2018 - 2:25 pm

I agree whole-heartedly that kids need a bit more independence Jenny it’s amazing how attitudes have changed so much in a relatively short period of time with regards to kids have time outside on their own 🙂

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Emma T May 23, 2018 - 10:29 am

I’d love to walk my son to school (or we’d be more likely to cycle) but I, like most of these other people driving on the school run, have no choice because we work and we can only drop at school at a certain time, and then have a short time to get to work. My son does morning club 3 times a week so I take him at 8, then I have 30 minutes to drive 8 miles to work – it should take 12 minutes on a non rush hour run, but takes 25 mins. It’s all done 30 minutes later the other 2 days. We live 1.5 milews from school – but live on a farm in the middle of nowhere outside the village. That’s rural windy roads, no paths, and often too narrow for 2 cars to pass without one pulling over. We could in theory walk across our fields and our neighbours’ to the outskirts of the village, but walking would add nearly 40 minutes to the commute to school and back home to pick up the car. It’s not feasible. When he’s in Y5/6 I would probably allow him to cycle to school – but it’s still pretty lethal to let him go alone with all the potholes and fast drivers. I’m not sure his dad would allow him the same chance to do that. He’s got 2.5 years til then so we’ll see what happens.

When we were kids we went on the bus to primary school, and walked to secondary (a 30 minute walk – except on orchestra days as I also had 2 instruments to carry). But my mum didn’t work until we were old enough to get to school on our own. It’s very different nowadays, with 2 working parents, and a lot of children no longer going to their local school.

Thankfully my son is very active – their school is big on making sure they get exercise at lunchtimes and plenty of outdoor time, plus he does afterschool club and spends most of the time there playing outside. Then he’ll go and help on the farm at weekends or be outside all the time playing. If he wasn’t I’d be more concerned. Yes there are people who could walk their children to school but don’t, but I think there’s an awful lot of judgement on working people who just can’t do it.

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About Getting Out May 26, 2018 - 10:50 am

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Emma with the fact that so many people are rushing off to work after dropping their kids off at school and therefore have to drive even if its a short distance. And I think it also applies to taking kids to the park and similar activities after school – sometimes the last thing you want to do is sit with a load of random school Mums while your kids play on the swings after you’ve have had a hectic day at work, knowing you then have to get home and start all over again! It’s exactly issues like this that we want to address on About Getting Out so thank you for taking the time to leave such a comprehensive comment 🙂

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Kirsty May 23, 2018 - 11:50 am

I ALWAYS walk to school with my girls. We don’t live very far so driving doesn’t seem viable. Plus I don’t have to rush off to work so I don’t need my car near by but due to parking issues I would probably only get half way before I had to park anyway. It irritates me when I see so many parents drive. I know some will absolutely have to as the catchment is quite large for our school but there is no way so many need to. Our kids are asked everyday if they walk and at the end of the week/term those that walk at least once a week are given a badge. It may seem mean to those that really have to drive but it makes the kids of those that don’t really nag their parents.

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About Getting Out May 23, 2018 - 2:22 pm

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with not rushing off to work Kirsty. I suspect that is what so many people are doing, and that’s why they need to take the car to school. The badge idea is brilliant, I’m definitely going to share that idea and see if we can get more schools doing it – Thanks 🙂

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Glyn May 23, 2018 - 6:26 pm

I like the badge idea – kids love reward. Regarding your last sentence – even if you have to drive due to catchment area issues then there is the option to park up well before the school in a less congested area and allow the kids to walk the rest of the way.

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Chloe Busby May 23, 2018 - 12:32 pm

We’ve been making the effort to walk to school now that the weather is better! Or scoot because all kids love scooting! When my youngest 3 had chicken pox I had to drive my eldest to school and keep the younger three in the car so they weren’t spreading it. But it wasn’t more convenient it was more stressful getting them all in and out lol xxx

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About Getting Out May 23, 2018 - 2:19 pm

Scooting is a brilliant idea, especially for little ones. Decent weather really does help, it’s gorgeous walking in the mornings in particular 🙂

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Pati May 23, 2018 - 10:08 pm

Back in my day ( now i feel old writing this ) we walked to school alone sometimes we took buss and a tram , now sadly as a mum i am a bit paranoid doing so – but i kind of feel like making a rod on my own back – and should give my daughter a little more independence – walking to school with her would be ideal but shes sadly in a out of area school and ( again me being a paranoid mum) i drive her x

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About Getting Out May 26, 2018 - 10:30 am

It is so difficult isn’t it Pati particularly if it’s an out of area school. I like the suggestion that some people have made about parking up away from the school and walking the last bit especially since parking around schools is such a nightmare!

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Nafisah May 24, 2018 - 4:51 pm

This is a very interesting topic for me because I am doing my Masters in public health at the moment. The main issue of concern these days is the high prevalence of obesity. I think walking to school is not only good in terms of physical activity but also mental health as you already mentioned. This is a welcome movement in the UK. Thank you for sharing xx

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About Getting Out May 26, 2018 - 10:31 am

I think you are absolutely right Nafisah. I bet a Masters in Public Health is an eye opener!

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Kaz | Ickle Pickles Life and Travels May 24, 2018 - 7:53 pm

I am trying to park in the village and walk up the hill to school – every little helps! I live 20 minutes away so have to drive to nearby. Kaz

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About Getting Out May 26, 2018 - 10:32 am

That’s a great idea Kaz and so much better than getting caught trying to park outside school which is a nightmare anyway.

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Katie May 25, 2018 - 7:47 am

Such an important issue. I walk to work every day, it’s a 2 mile walk but more often than not it’s quicker (and cheaper) than taking the car, plus you have so many added benefits. I recently got a fitbit which has really pushed me to walk further and for longer.

Katie xoxo

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About Getting Out May 26, 2018 - 10:54 am

I think fitbits are a great tool for encouraging us to walk a bit more Katie. I think if you can walk to and from work it’s a brilliant way to prepare for the day and unwind after. It must have been gorgeous during the spell of lovely weather we just had!

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