Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

Walking to school, the week to do it!

Walking to school week

I know, I know - who wants to walk to school but hear me out. From May the 20th until the 24th it is National Walk to School Week.

With the slogan: “Take the right step out of the car and onto the pavement”, I can’t decide if this is a great move or slightly sad.

It’s fantastic that organisers are mounting this drive (pun intended) but how sad that it’s necessary.

walking to school

Right now, only half of 7-10 year olds do the recommended hour of exercise a day, so it’s up to parents, siblings and teachers to encourage more activity.

Walking to school was a rite of passage when I was younger. It meant that my school friends Nicola, Rachel and I were now old enough to be trusted and after a few years came the responsibility of chaperoning our younger siblings Cathy, Lisa and Chrissie.

So many of my childhood memories centre around our group and our trips back home from school. There were the trips to the shop to buy 10 pence pick n mix – we could even buy sweets for ½ a pence (any younger readers will have no idea what this is – no it’s not a foreign currency).

I can still see The Beehive newsagent as if it was yesterday, the sweets were under a glass counter and there were so many to choose from – pink mushrooms, yellow bananas, cola bottles, and cherry lips – lovely!

walk to school

I used to run past the butchers as I couldn’t bare to see the dead pheasants and rabbits hanging up outside. Maybe I also have the school walk home to thank for that!

I can understand the fears parents have over “stranger danger” and I’m sure our Mums and Dads must have been just as scared. We had rules to follow and had to make sure we walked home together – we all lived on the same estate.

Now, I’m Mum to two gorgeous girls so I know how terrifying it is to allow them some independence. I dread the day my eldest asks to walk home alone. I may have to resort to stalking her following her!

National Walk to School Week aims to highlight the benefits of walking to school. The exercise is great, and less cars should hopefully be on the roads.

The difficulty is that many Mums and Dads work full-time and they choose to drop their little ones off via their place of work. In addition, if it’s pouring down with rain who wants to walk? A greater problem is the number of children who attend schools from out of the area – there is no way they can be expected to ditch the car.

Maybe though, they could park up a little further away from the school gates – this would give them a little bit of exercise and stop the dangerous congestion around school gates.

I know at my daughter’s school the majority of parent’s park responsibly, but you always see some who think it’s fine to mount pavements without a thought for those walking or pushing a pram. I have a foot in both camps. I try to walk as much as possible but when I’m in a rush or the weather is bad I jump in the car too.

If you’re thinking of walking to school during National Walk to School Week here are some tips:

1. Even walking one day a week would increase your child’s exercise regime. If you have younger children, why not take a favourite doll walkies. This encourages them to do the walk and enjoy it more.

2. Walking to school is a great time for a chat or maybe a game. My daughter and I have just finished reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and earlier this week we were deciding which house the White Witch would live in, by the time we’d picked one we’d arrived.

3. If you live further away from school why not park up and walk a short distance rather than jockeying around the school gates?

4. Teach children the green cross code. And remember they have little legs, so add on this time to your trip. What might take 20 minutes might actually take 30 minutes.

5. Dress appropriately. Remember waterproofs if raining.

For more details visit the website organising the campaign, at Living Streets.

I hope you can get involved, even for one day. Enjoy the fresh air!

If you have any other top tips for walking to school then please leave a comment below. Xx

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