Wakefield pupils start 2020 with best foot forward

St John’s CE school pupils make strides on walking to school and air quality improvements

Pupils from St John’s CE Infant & Junior School
Pupils at St John’s CE Infant & Junior School in Wakefield putting their best foot forward with Meltem Lang, Living Streets Project Coordinator for West Yorkshire.

Pupils at St John’s CE Infant & Junior School in Wakefield have been starting the New Year as they mean to go on by taking steps towards improving their local area for walking to school.

Representatives from Living Streets, the UK’s charity for everyday walking, were on hand on Friday (24 January) to help pupils audit the conditions for travelling by foot around the school gates.

Traffic volumes, crossings, dropped kerbs, accessible pathways, lighting and safety were among the features evaluated as part of the school route audit.

Pupils will be compiling a list of recommendations to share with the council, as well as a school action plan to boost the number of pupils walking to school.    

Alongside this work, St John’s is taking part in a pilot project run by Wakefield Council with monitors located around the school to measure the air quality at different points throughout the day.    

The school also participates in WOW – Living Streets’s year-round walk to school challenge, which has been shown to increase the rate of pupils travelling on foot by 23 per cent, helping reduce congestion at the school gates.

Helen Findlay, Headteacher at the school, said: “From reducing congestion and air pollution to boosting physical activity and instilling good travel habits that last a life time, we know encouraging more of our pupils to walk, scoot and cycle to school brings huge benefits.

“Our hope is that if more of our pupils walk, scoot or cycle to school then we will see an improvement in air quality during drop off and pick up times.”

Pupils at St John’s CE Infant & Junior School in Wakefield

Cllr Jack Hemingway, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, said: “This is a fantastic initiative by the schools, which we are pleased to be supporting. Children are particularly engaged with the Climate Change agenda and we know that vehicle emissions are one of the biggest contributors to warming the planet as well as being harmful to health.

“It is inspiring to see how children are leading the way and showing how simple changes can make a difference. We all need to follow their lead to ensure we have a better planet for their future.”

Living Streets is working with schools across the region in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bike or on foot.

The Combined Authority’s Bike Friendly Schools scheme, which is targeted at schools on or near to cycle routes either built or improved through the CityConnect programme, provides pupils with access to a bike and free cycle training, as well as free training for staff to plan and deliver activities, with funding also available for bike and scooter parking – all with the aim of helping more people make more journeys by bike.

The scheme is run in partnership with Bradford-based BeCycling, with more than 50% of pupils who go through the scheme learning to ride for the first time.

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with Living Streets to ensure more of our school children –the commuters of the future – have the skills and knowledge they need to build active, healthy and pollution-free travel into their lives.

“With Public Health England estimating 1 in 20 deaths in our region are attributable to air pollution, the case for making more of our journeys on foot and by bike has never been stronger.

“We know encouraging more of us to travel sustainably not only boosts people’s health and saves individual’s money, it also brings wider economic benefits and that is why we want to make walking and cycling a natural choice for short, everyday journeys.”

From learning to ride for the first time to making the journey to secondary school by bike, pupils from 42 schools across West Yorkshire have received support through the scheme and more than 140 extra bike and scooter parking places have been installed at participating schools.