Sustainable transport for schools

Travelling to school in a way that is safe, sustainable, and good for the environment, is something we want everyone to get involved in. It may even save you money, and improve your health, along the way.

Northumberland are passionate about encouraging more initiatives for children to travel to school in a more environmentally-friendly manner, including the reduction of car use for the journey to school.

Go Smarter Northumberland

Go Smarter, Go Cheaper, Go Greener!

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

Please click here to visit the Go Smarter Northumberland website.

Why Go Smarter?
  • Leaving your car at home, even for one or two days each week, could help to reduce congestion levels, and to improve road safety around your child’s school.
  • As well as reducing your impact on the environment, you could also be reducing your fuel costs.
  • Teachers also find that children who walk, cycle, or scoot to school are more relaxed, alert, and ready to start the day compared to those who travel by car.

How can Go Smarter help schools to develop their travel plans?
  • Through Modeshift STARS, Go Smarter can help schools work towards accreditation by keeping their travel plans up-to-date and relevant.
  • Signpost schools to promotional events and competitions 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.

Modeshift STARS

The Department of Transport has provided funding to roll out Modeshift STARS to all schools in England.

Modeshift STARS is a national sustainable travel scheme, where schools can work towards a bronze, silver, or gold accreditation.

Please click here to visit the Modeshift STARS website.

What are the benefits of this?
  • STARS enable schools to replace their paper travel plans with an online version, so they can be easily updated throughout the year.
  • Reduction in traffic congestion and atmospheric pollution.
  • Improved safety, health and fitness.
  • Increased independence and social interaction for your children.

Environmental initiatives

Northumberland County Council is committed to promoting the environmental  benefits of active, sustainable travel, which includes reducing pollution for cleaner air around our schools.

Schools can take part in a number of initiatives to highlight these issues, including:
  • Clean Air Day:
  • Car free days:
    • This includes banning cars around schools for one day to highlight the benefits of sustainable travel.
  • School Street Closures:
    • We will work with the Highways team at Northumberland County Council so we can investigate Traffic Regulation Orders. This is to prohibit cars from entering specific streets at certain times of the day.
    • Closing the street outside of your school will ensure that the air will be less polluted, as well as making the area safer for children.
  • Anti idling campaigns:
    • These will discourage any antisocial behaviour near schools.  
  • ‘Green’ solutions:
    • Promoting solutions such as living walls to help absorb air pollution can be educational for children, as well as environmentally friendly.
  • Walking initiatives:
    • Encouraging the ‘Park and Stride’, and 5 minute walking zone initiatives help to keep the immediate area outside of your school free from traffic, and improves air quality.
Walking is often the easiest way to make short journeys, and walking to school is the best way to encourage children to be more active. Most pupils, particularly those at primary and first schools, live within a short walking distance of their school.

Why should your child walk to school?
  • Walking to school with your child gives you the opportunity to teach them good road safety habits.
  • Pupils who walk will arrive more energised, and ready for the day ahead than those who travel by car.
  • There’s no more hassle of trying to find somewhere to park near the school.
  • 20% of all rush hour traffic is made up of parents doing the school run.
  • Walking provides parents and children with time to chat and catch up on their day and it’s free!
  • It is the best way to ensure that your child gets some exercise every day.

Walk to School initiatives

Walk on Wednesdays (WOW)
  • Pupils are rewarded for walking to school at least one day per week.
  • Collectible badges are rewarded at the end of each month.
  • When both parents and pupils can see how enjoyable it is to Walk on Wednesdays, they can try to 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, and Walk to School Month
Organised walks to school
  • We have helped schools to organise some fantastic themed walks to school, for example Halloween, royal wedding, and Easter walks.
  • Schools can make organised walks really fun events which tie into other activities taking place at school.
  • Just pick a date, theme, and a place where everyone can meet up and walk to school. We can help you to 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.
  • The walking bus route risk is assessed by highways engineers. We also produce  timetables, and a pupil code of conduct.
  • If your school doesn’t have a walking bus, we could help you and your child’s school to set one up.

Park and Stride
  • This is a good alternative for pupils who have to travel to school by car.
  • Parents can park their cars up to 10 minutes away from the school and continue the remainder of the journey on foot with their children.
  • This reduces congestion at the school gates, improved road safety for children, reduces air pollution, and encourages healthier lifestyles.
  • We have resources to help schools to promote Park and Stride - including railing banners, car stickers, and maps.
Cycling is a great way to get to school. It’s possible to cycle a much greater distance than it is to walk, and most children find cycling fun too!

PLEASE NOTE: An adult should always accompany younger children. Older children should work with their parents to determine a suitable route, and practice it with an adult before they are ready to try it independently.

Why should your child cycle to school?
  • They will get to school faster than they would if they were walking.
  • 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 helps to develop road sense, which makes your child a better road user in the future.

Cycle to School initiatives

Bikeability cycle training
Bike Week
  • Bike Week is a national celebration of cycling held in June each year. It is an opportunity to encourage more pupils to try cycling to school.
  • In 2019, over 300 registered Bike Week events were held across the UK, supporting over 25,000 people to take up cycling.
  • In Northumberland, we organise a school cycle challenge with trophies for schools and pupils.
  • Schools could also try holding biker’s breakfasts, sponsored cycle rides, or bling your bike competitions during the school week.
  • Please click here for more information about Bike Week.

The Big Pedal cycling competition
  • The Big Pedal is a national cycling competition held in February and organised by cycling charity Sustrans.
  • Schools compete against each other to record the greatest number of active journeys to school.
Please click here for more information about Sustrans.
Children love to use their scooters to travel in their free time, so scooting to school has become the major sustainable travel success story of the past few years.

Scoot to School initiatives

Scooter training
  • Scooter Smart is a training pack which can be delivered by schools, or a member of the Go Smarter team.
  • This is aimed at pupils in years one and two.
  • Scooter training aims to educate children to become responsible scooter riders, while ensuring that 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.

Please click here for more information on the county council home-to-school transport policy.
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.

View the Sustainable Modes of Travel Strategy here

View the Education and Inspections Act 2006 here.

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.
Our Smarter Parker campaign asks you to be more considerate of others, and the environment, when taking your car to school.

Think. Do you need to take your child to school in the car? If you do, then please consider the following:


Smarter Parker Campaign

To promote safe and considerate parking outside our schools, we have the resources for schools to run a Smarter Parker Campaign.

  • We can provide schools with railing banners, car stickers and leaflets.
  • We have also produced a film to explain the role of the parking enforcement vehicle:
Please click here to see how you could be a Smarter Parker.

Also remember to:
  • 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 your children. This can produce 80% more pollution than when a vehicle is actually moving. Medical evidence suggests that one in seven children has asthma related to traffic fumes.
  • Park and Stride: find a location some distance from the school to park, and walk the rest of the way with your child.
  • Car share: talk to other parents about sharing lifts to reduce congestion and pollution. Lift sharing could save you time and money too.