Suffolk: Parents urged to make pupils walk to school

A walking bus in action

A walking bus in action - Credit: Contributed

Suffolk is backing a call for more children to be encouraged to walk to and from school in an attempt to improve fitness.

But the councillor who is about to take responsibility for schools and young people accepted that it was often difficult for parents to allow their youngsters to walk.

The Must Try Harder report published by Living Streets found that 82% of parents of children aged between five and 11 in the east of England had walked to school themselves. However, there has been a steady decline over generations.

Despite almost a third of children in the UK being overweight or obese, 22% of parents in the region say they automatically drive their child to school rather than walking them there and 12% said they had never even considered making sure their child walks to school.

The walk to school is an easy way to build some exercise into a child’s day and should be a key element of government strategy to encourage us all to be more physically active, says Living Streets.

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The organisation’s chief executive, Tony Armstrong, said: “The overwhelming majority of our grans and grandads walked to school, but over generations we are seeing a steady decline to the point where it seems some parents wouldn’t even think about ensuring their child walks to school.

“Meanwhile obesity rates have more than doubled, even since I walked to school just 20-odd years ago. We hear a lot from the Coalition Government about investment to encourage participation in sport, but it overlooks this very simple and cost effective intervention.

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“Encouraging the children of today to walk to school not only keeps them healthy now but makes for healthier adults in the future.”

County council deputy leader Lisa Chambers, who is taking responsibility for schools in the new cabinet, is keen to promote walking to school – but recognised it was not always possible.

She said: “In rural areas especially that is not always an option. I know there are villages in my division where it would be possible to walk to school, but there are no pavements on the roads and HGVs travel along them very quickly.

“But wherever possible, this is an initiative that should be encouraged – especially ideas like walking buses where children are supervised by several adults.”

However, she recognised that busy parents preparing children for school often did not have time to walk with them – and found it easier to drop them off at school on their way to work: “You have to be realistic about this,” she added.

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