Local sustainable transport - schools

This page tells you how you can travel to school in a sustainable way.

Go Smarter Northumberland works with schools across Northumberland to reduce car dependency for the school journey.

A school travel plan is a document setting out a package of measures aiming to reduce the number of car trips made to school by parents and staff.  

Travelling to school safely, in a way that is sustainable and good for the environment, is something we want everyone to get involved in, and it may even save you money and improve your health along the way. 
Why make the change?
  • Even if you were able to ditch the car for one or two days a week, this could still make a big difference to congestion levels, the environment and your purse.
  • Teachers find that pupils who walk, cycle or scoot to school are more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car.
School travel plans and Modeshift STARS
The Department of Transport has provided funding to roll out Modeshift STARS to all schools in England. This is a national sustainable travel accreditation scheme where schools can work towards bronze, silver or gold accreditation.

STARS will enable schools to replace their paper travel plans with an online version that can be easily updated throughout the year, as they take part in initiatives with accreditation recognised at the national level.  
 What are the benefits?
  • reduction in traffic congestion outside the school gates
  • improved safety on the journey to school
  • improved health and fitness of the school community
  • increase in children’s independence and social interaction
  • reduction in atmospheric pollution
How can Go Smarter help schools develop their travel plans?
Through Modeshift STARs we can help schools ensure their travel plans are kept up-to-date and relevant and we will support schools to work towards accreditation.

Ensure the school travel plan becomes part of the school culture and look at ways to incorporate into the curriculum:
  • Signpost schools to promotional events and competitions they can get involved in throughout the year.
  • Ensure the message of safe, healthy and sustainable travel reaches the pupils and parents of the new intake each year.
  • Involve all of the school community in making sure the school travel plan is a success.
Walking is often the easiest way to make short journeys and walking to school is the best way to encourage children to get more active. Most pupils, particularly those at primary and first schools, live within easy walking distance of their school.

Why walk to school?
  • You don’t need any special equipment or training to walk.
  • Walking to school with your child gives you the opportunity to teach them good road safety habits.
  • Pupils arrive at school energised and ready for the day ahead.
  • There is no more hassle of trying to find somewhere to park near the school.
  • 20% of all rush hour traffic is made up of people doing the school run.
  • Walking provides parents and children with time to chat and catch up on their day.
  • It’s a good way to make sure your child gets some exercise each day.
  • It’s free.
How we can help pupils walk to school:
Have a look at the initiatives we have introduced to offer alternatives to the car for the school run. Free resources are available from the travel plan team.
Walk on Wednesdays (WOW)
Pupils are rewarded for walking a least one day each week with prize draws at the end of each term.  

When parents and pupils see how easy and enjoyable it can be to Walk on Wednesdays, they can try and incorporate it into their daily routines.

WOW can make a real difference as it promotes walking throughout the entire school year.
Walk to School Week
Held during May every year, this is a national celebration of walking to school and is an ideal time to kick-start and organise any walking activities.

Schools could hold a themed walk-to-school event or a sponsored walk to promote the importance of walking as a fun and healthy way of travelling to school. 

For more information on this national initiative, please go to www.livingstreets.org.uk or contact the Go Smarter team.

Organised walks to school 
Organised walks to school are an effective way to launch a walking scheme like a walking bus or five-minute zone, or can be a fun thing to do during Walk to School Week.

We have helped schools to organise some fantastic themed walks to school, for example Halloween, royal wedding and Easter walks. Schools can make them really fun events, which can be linked to other activities taking place in school.

They are easy to organise - just pick a date, theme and place where everyone can meet up and walk to school. We can help you sort out the details.

Walking buses
A walking bus is a group of children, supervised by adults, who walk to school along a defined route, picking up more children along the way. Parents find them useful and children think they are fun too.
All volunteers receive training, the walking bus route risk is assessed by highways engineers and we help to provide timetables and a pupil code of conduct.
Why not ask your school if they have a walking bus. If not, we could help you and your child’s school to set one up.
Five-minute walking zone or park and stride 
This is a good alternative for those children who have to travel to school by car. The idea of the scheme is to set boundaries five or 10 minutes away from the school where parents can park their cars and continue the remainder of the journey on foot with their children.

This reduces congestion at the school gates, improves road safety for children, reduces air pollution and encourages healthier lifestyles too. We have resources available to help schools promote their five-minute walking zone including railing banners, car stickers and maps.
Cycling is a great way to get the kids to school. It’s possible to cycle a much greater distance than it is to walk and most children would love to cycle to school. 

An adult should always accompany younger children and older ones should work with parents to decide on a suitable route and practice it with support until they’re ready to go it alone.

The majority of schools in Northumberland will have some cycle storage facilities available for pupils.

Why cycle to school?
  • Cycling is so much faster than walking -  you could get to school in half the time.
  • It keeps you fit – cycling is one of the best forms of exercise you can get.
  • Bikes don’t pollute the environment, the only fuel you need is pedal power.
  • Cycling develops road sense, which prepares children to be better road users.
  • It’s fun and it’s free. 
How we can help pupils cycle to school

Bikeability cycle training
Bikeability is cycling proficiency for the 21st century, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on today’s roads.  

It is the only government-approved and nationally recognised award for cycle training today. Northumberland schools are offered free Bikeability training for their pupils through the council's road safety team.

For more information on Bikeability, contact the team or look at the Bikeability website which has lots of ideas on how to promote cycling at your school.

Bike Week
Bike Week is a national celebration of cycling held in June each year, which is an opportunity to encourage more pupils to try cycling to school. In 2014 almost half a million people took part in the celebration of cycling across the UK.

In Northumberland we organise a school cycle challenge with trophies for schools, pupils and teachers who make an extra effort to cycle to school during Bike Week.

Schools could also try holding biker’s breakfasts, sponsored cycle rides or bling your bike competitions during the week.

The Big Pedal cycling competition
The Big Pedal is a national cycling competition held in February and organised by cycling charity Sustrans.

The competition takes the form of a virtual bike race, where your school can compete against other schools across the UK to log the highest number of cycle trips and so complete the course. 
More information is available at www.sustrans.org.uk
Children love using their scooters to travel to school and scooting to school has become the major sustainable travel success story of the past few years.
How we can help pupils scoot to school

Scooter training
We have developed Scooter Smart - a training pack which can be delivered by schools or a member of the Go Smarter Team to pupils in years one and two.

Scooter training aims to educate children to become responsible scooter riders, while ensuring they are aware of the safety implications of riding a scooter in public spaces.

On completion of the training, pupils receive a certificate with a copy of the Scooter Smart Code.
Public transport is a great choice for getting quickly and safely to school if you need to travel longer distances.

Promoting public transport will teach children about different ways to get to school and also give them the skills and knowledge to travel independently when they are older.
Think, do you need to take the car? If you do, then please consider the following:
  • Park safely - park well away from school entrances and yellow zig zags.
  • Arrive safely - make sure your child gets out on the pavement side when you are dropping them off.
  • Stop the engine - don't leave your engine running when your car has stopped and you are waiting to collect children. This can produce 80% more pollution than when a vehicle is actually moving. Medical evidence suggests the fact that one in seven children has asthma is related to traffic fumes.
  • Use the five-minute zone - find a location some distance from the school so you can park and stride. This will help your children to experience some of the benefits of walking to school and reduce school gate congestion as well as helping to develop their road safety skills.
  • Car share - talk to other parents about sharing lifts to reduce congestion and pollution. Liftsharing could also save you time and money too.
Northumberland County Council has published a sustainable modes of travel strategy (SMOT) as a requirement of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

The SMOT contains information relating to educational travel in Northumberland and provides a resource for parents and schools. 

The strategy aims to promote the use of sustainable modes of travel for the school journey and sets out what we are doing as an authority to support this.