Must try harder: How school travel can make the grade

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1 Must try harder: How school travel can make the grade

2 Living Streets is the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. With our supporters we work to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets, where people want to walk. We have been the national voice for pedestrians throughout our 80 year history. In the early years, our campaigning led to the introduction of the driving test, pedestrian crossings and 30 mph speed limits. Since then our ambition has grown. Today we influence decision makers nationally and locally, run successful projects to encourage people to walk, including the national Walk to School campaign; and provide specialist consultancy services to help reduce congestion and carbon emissions, improve public health, and make sure every community can enjoy vibrant streets and public spaces. The WoW (Walk once a Week) initiative has had a major impact in our school not only in helping to increase the numbers of children and parents walking to school but in highlighting issues of road safety. We re delighted to see Throckley Primary School are enjoying the benefits of walking to school. Keep up the good work! Colin Lofthouse, Head Teacher of Throckley Primary School, Newcastle Living Streets Walk to School campaign Living Streets has a vision that every child who can walk to school does so, and is committed to reversing the decline in young people s walking levels so that over 50% of primary school children will be walking to school again by The Walk to School campaign: Delivers improved physical and mental health for children, parents and carers; Provides cost savings through improved public health, reduced congestion, improved road safety and reduced carbon emissions; Breaks down the environmental and behavioural barriers to walking to school. Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 2

3 It s my favourite time of the day. I get to chat to Trinity and find out more about school on that ten minute walk than I would at home. It gives me some quality time with my daughter and we do have fun. We do miss the walk to school in the holidays, so we do sometimes just go out for a walk together. Chris, dad of Trinity, aged 7 Introduction The transport section of the 2010 Coalition Programme for Government states We will support sustainable travel initiatives, including the promotion of cycling and walking, and will encourage joint working between bus operators and local authorities. Three years on and with two years remaining until the next General Election, Living Streets has prepared a midterm report to ask the question: has the Coalition delivered on supporting sustainable travel in relation to walking to school? The current position The National Travel Survey (NTS) 2011 states that during 2011, 49% of trips to and from school by primary school children (aged 5-10) were made on foot i. This compares to 53% in 1995/97 i. Over the same period the proportion of trips by car for these children increased from 38% to 43% i. This is despite the relatively stable distance from school: 48% of children live within one mile of their school (less than 20 minutes walk) and 75% live within two miles of the school gate ii. Among secondary school children (aged 11-16) walk to school rates are even lower with 38% of school trips being undertaken by foot compared with 42% in 1995/7 i. Trips by car increased from 20% in 1995/97 to 22% in 2011 i year olds walking to school % These figures contrast sharply with the 92% of pensioners and 81% of parents of children who attend primary school surveyed who told us in 2009 (Living Streets, No Ball Games) and May 2013 respectively that they walked all, or a majority of the way to primary school when they were children iii. 1995/ % Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 3

4 Benefits and costs The benefits of increased walk to school rates are clear and well documented. The walk to school is good for physical and mental health; good for reducing congestion, good for improving air quality and good for reducing carbon emissions. The educational benefits of walking to school also need to be taken into account. According to teachers, children arrive at school more alert and ready to learn than children who are driven iv. Research reveals physically active children do better in tests and achieve better grades v. We also know from our previous research Backseat children (2008) that children who walk to school are more engaged with their local communities than those who do not and show demonstrable social bonds they have formed while on their daily walk to school iv. Transport minister Norman Baker with Walk to School campaign mascot Strider and children from Martins Wood Primary School, Stevenage The benefits, then, are huge: to children, parents and society more widely. But what about the costs? Just examining one dimension the long term cost implications of poor health related to low levels of physical activity we can see a strong case for intervention: Cardiovascular disease was estimated to cost the UK economy 29 billion in 2004 in care costs and lost productivity vi Elevated body mass index (BMI) was estimated at 7 billion in 2001, with a predicted increase to 27 billion by 2015 vii Mental health problems have been estimated to cost the UK economy 106 billion in 2009/2010 in care costs, lost productivity and reductions in quality of life viii. Meanwhile a recent Lancet report revealed that increased levels of walking and cycling has the potential to save the National Health Service over 17 billion, over the course of 20 years, through reductions in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, dementia, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer because of increased physical activity with further costs averted after 20 years ix. Given these figures, instilling positive attitudes towards walking at a young age through investment in walk to school interventions could deliver considerable cost savings to Government through improved health alone. This does not include the potential savings from reducing congestion arising from the school run, improving road safety and reducing carbon emissions. The costs of failing to increase the number of children walking to school far exceeds the low cost of running a walk to school intervention in a school. We know from our own initiatives that a big impact on walking rates can be seen with small amounts of money. Our Walk Once a Week (WoW) programme costs only 1.21 per child per year. Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 4

5 Barriers to walking to school The barriers to walking to school can be broadly divided into environmental and behavioural. Environmental barriers These include infrastructure or design barriers which children encounter on the walk to school, or which prevent parents from letting their children walk. Speeding traffic scares over a third (36%) of children and young people about walking to school, whilst over one in five children and young people are concerned about the lack of safe crossing points on their journey x. Busy roads, fast moving traffic and poor walking infrastructure are common barriers cited by parents. Behavioural barriers These include real and perceived barriers in the business of everyday life getting in the way of walking to school. For example, one in five primary school children don t walk to school because their parents state that they don t have time to walk with them x. These lifestyle barriers can also originate from children and young people in terms of willingness to walk. 59% of primary school pupils are willing to walk up to 20 minutes of their journey to school but this decreases to 37% of secondary school pupils x. And increasing reliance on cars means to some parents, the notion of walking to school doesn t even occur just over one in five (21%) parents of children who travel to primary school surveyed tell us they ve never considered making sure their child walks to school, and 27% say they tend to automatically drive their child to school rather than walking them there. xi Behavioural barriers also include fears or concerns which have a relatively low likelihood of occurring but the perceived risk is enough to deter walking to school. The most common perceived barrier is stranger danger with 39% of children and young people scared by the risk of stranger danger against the relatively very low risk of abduction x. People think driving is easier but it isn t. The cars cause mayhem on the road and end up blocking off buses which cause traffic delays. We walk past people sat in traffic near school and I ve walked up to school, dropped Aaron off and walked back down and they are still sat there! The walk to school is a fun time for children and I enjoy it as well. Taking in the fresh air and socialising with other parents is great. I have spoken to other parents on the walk to school and you know what other people do and the children get to play with each other. Gives the area a more of a community feel when you get to talk to other parents. Gary, dad of Aaron, aged 6 Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 5

6 What works? How we are making a dramatic impact on walking levels Despite the general declining trend in walk to school rates, we have shown that intensive local action working closely in partnership with local authorities can have a large impact. Our Walk to School outreach project began as a pilot project funded by the Department for Transport which saw us work in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to work intensively with a cluster of schools. This work included using incentive schemes, promotional events, and working with parents and schools to identify and tackle local barriers to more walking. At the end of the project, walking to school had increased from 46% to 53%. Park and Stride (where parents drop off their children at a designated point within walking distance of the school) increased from 8% to 18%, and driving rates decreased from 36% to 19%. This is one of the most effective interventions we have seen in terms of shifting the mode of travel to school - in the UK and internationally. As a result of our focus on breaking down behavioural Durham County council (lead partner) barriers with parents, we saw a 33% reduction in the number of children Leicester City Council who perceived school being too far to walk and a 44% reduction in the Hertfordshire County Council number who perceived that it took too long to walk to school. Hartlepool Borough Council Blackpool Council Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council Wirral Borough In 2012, Living Streets - in partnership with Durham County Council - secured funding through the Government s Local Sustainable Transport Fund to roll out the outreach project in 11 local authority areas. Buckinghamshire County Council The project is rightly ambitious with targets to convert 4.2 million Hampshire County Council school journeys from car to walking and a further 2.8 million to Park West Sussex County Council and Stride, saving an estimated 3.59 thousand tonnes of CO 2. In the first Stoke on Trent City Council year alone we have launched Walk Once a Week (WoW) in 210 primary schools, reaching over 50,000 more children. We have also worked with 42 secondary schools and invested 70,000 in capital improvements to help remove environmental barriers to walking, which has leveraged in further match funding. By the end of the project in 2015 we will have collectively engaged over 1,000 schools (854 primary and 182 secondary). Early results replicate the success of the pilot project, with walking rates at participating primary schools increasing from 53% to 68%. Our Walk once a Week (WoW) extension project for the Department of Health saw us working with 736 schools and over 118,000 children in order to increase walking levels in schools across England. 61,567 children and 6,515 parents took part in surveys which revealed a 25% increase in numbers of children walking to school (during the project lifetime) and a 35% decrease in car use. Before the WoW intervention, schools had a 43% walking proportion, and following the WoW interventions schools reached a peak of 59% walking in 2011, levelling at 54% in 2012 (the final year). Living Streets Walk to School projects have had a clear positive impact on the number of children and young people walking to school over the last three years in the locations where it has been supported. The benefits of such a scheme was recognised by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in its Walking and Cycling guidance in 2012 xii. We have made a big thing of the WoW scheme within school and the WoW trophy. We celebrate in Friday and monthly assemblies the children who have walked and the class who has won the WoW trophy. The scheme has really raised the awareness of the children that walking to school helps the environment and helps keep the area around the school a safer place. Janet, Head Teacher at Barnwell Primary School, Sunderland Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 6

7 What more needs to be done? While we have seen huge successes through our initiatives and where we have worked intensively, much more needs to be done. In this section, we look at the key policy and practical measures that need to happen if we are to reverse the trend and see national walking rates back up to at least 50%. We also assess the performance of the Coalition Government over the last three years in our mid-term report card. The responsibility for increasing the number of children walking to school rests with a range of organisations and individuals, although there are clear interventions which will make a positive difference, which means that progress is down to setting the right priorities and leadership rather than looking around for ideas on what works. The report card The Government s role in increasing walking to school is focused around three broad areas: providing strong leadership and setting a clear agenda; ensuring a positive policy and regulatory environment; and ensuring resources are available and targeted correctly. Leadership and agenda setting Progress has been mixed. Must try harder: Securing a three year ring fenced Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) is a major achievement, demonstrating a clear commitment to sustainable travel. A welcome focus from the Department for Transport on tackling congestion and reducing carbon emissions has set clear priorities for local government and partners - without imposing central targets. However, the previous Government s school travel strategy was quickly ditched with no replacement, and there is little sign of any coordinated approach or direction from Government on a chunk of travel behaviour which impacts very strongly on both carbon and congestion. In addition, the decision by the Department for Education to scrap the requirement to track travel to school behaviour means that there is no national data set to track changes in travel to school by local authority area. Looking ahead, the Government should have a strong national focus on walking and active travel more generally. Supporting the walk to school needs to be part of a clear well resourced, long-term strategy to increase the number of people walking (including walking to school) and improve the walking environment. This needs to be genuinely cross-government and cross-sector, in partnership with local authorities and non-governmental organisations. There needs to be new national data collection methods to ensure consistency of information and the ability to track progress. Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 7

8 Ensuring a positive environment Progress has been mixed. Must try harder: As mentioned earlier, we have seen successes through Walk to School interventions in removing behavioural barriers, and some progress in removing environmental barriers such as improving the safety of the walk to school. Government can do a lot to effect how easy it is to remove environmental barriers. On traffic speed, a major barrier to parents feeling comfortable about their child s walk to school, the Government has made some progress. New guidance on the setting of local speed limits has been produced which calls on local authorities to consider the use of 20 mph limits. This was welcome, although Ministers could have supported a default 20 mph limit, and certainly could do more to promote and encourage local authority take up, and highlight and support local authorities who have made local progress. We welcome the recent commitment to look at pedestrian crossings, which are another major environmental factor in the school journey. Ensuring resources are available Some good progress, but needs careful attention to maintain performance: With financial austerity, expectations must be realistic in terms of public sector budgets and priority setting. The establishment of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) in this context is the main achievement, as highlighted above. However, the fund is only guaranteed until 2015, and due to other cuts on local government, without continued LSTF, the outlook is bleak for sustainable travel. In addition, there is a strong case for stronger direction in guidance to recipients of funding to focus on proven walking initiatives such as the outreach initiative. Successful sustainable travel initiatives are not a luxury in difficult economic times, and improvements in the walking environment can have a significant impact on congestion and deliver significant financial benefits to local economies and high streets xiii. During a time of financial austerity this report has demonstrated that Walk to School interventions can deliver significant savings for national and local government and represents excellent value for money. The long term sustainability of funding streams to support initiatives such as the LSTF must be considered and plans drawn up to ensure the momentum achieved thus far is continued beyond the current spending period. In particular any active travel ambition must be considered as part of the 2014 Comprehensive Spending Review. Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 8

9 Local authorities Local authorities have a major role in commissioning, supporting and delivering successful interventions to increasing walking to school, as well as providing local leadership. We have seen some great activity and commitment, although nationally the picture is mixed with some local authorities doing very well and some lagging behind. There are clear areas where progress can be made: Commissioning successful and proven interventions - and prioritising action on school travel within local budgets, recognising that large benefits can be gained from modest investment Removing barriers to walking. Local councils must consider their role in breaking down the barriers to walking to school in their area. From adopting 20 mph limits to tackling pavement parking to improving crossings, local authorities have the opportunity to use a range of legislative and policy tools to create better environments for walking to school Where local authorities come up against barriers which are outside their control, they should work with central government and non-government organisations to bust such barriers Supporting schools to promote and encourage children, parents and carers to walk to school and to take part in Walk to School initiatives. And finally parents and children We know through our work that primary aged pupils are often the strongest ambassadors for walking to school. Often the children tell us that they have to persuade their parents to make time, to build the walk into their daily routines or to enthusiastically take part in the puddle splashing nature of the walk when the weather is not so good! Many of today s parents walked to school and didn t think twice about it. We need to make sure our children get into the walking habit. Opportunities such as Walk to School Week are perfect for giving walking a go. Leave the car keys at home, and see how easy walking can be. We re confident you ll soon see the benefits for yourselves! I enjoy walking to school because I get to use up some energy. I like collecting things on my walk to school I collect feathers and have loads at home. I like collecting the WoW badges too; I have just got the French badge this month. Aaron, aged 6 Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 9

10 Endnotes i Department for Transport (2012) National Travel Survey 2011 ii Living Streets (2009) No Ball Games iii YouGov polling on behalf of Living Streets. Total sample size was 1009 GB parents of children aged 5 to 11 who attend primary school, of whom 845 were parents of children who travelled 2 miles or less to primary school. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st-6th May The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). iv v vi vii Living Streets (2008) Backseat Children Rauner, R, Walters, R, Avery, M and Wanser, T (2013) Evidence that Aerobic Fitness Is More Salient than Weight Status in Predicting Standardized Math and Reading Outcomes in Fourth- through Eighth- Grade Students, The Journal of Pediatrics - 04 March 2013 ( /j.jpeds ) Luengo-Fernández, R., Leal, J., Gray, A., Petersen, S., Rayner, M. (2006) Cost of cardiovascular diseases in the United Kingdom. Heart 2006;92: McPherson, K., Marsh, T., Brown, M. (2007) Tackling Obesities: Future Choices - Modelling Future Trends in Obesity and the Impact on Health. 2nd Edition. Government Office for Science, London. viii Centre for Mental Health (2010) The economic and social cost of mental health problems in 2009/10 ix x Jarrett, j. Woodcock, J., Griffiths, U, K., Chalabi, Z., Edwards, P., Roberts, I., Haines, A. The Lancet, Volume 379, Issue 9832, Pages , 9 June 2012 Living Streets (2011) Breaking down the barriers xi YouGov polling on behalf of Living Streets. Total sample size was 1009 GB parents of children aged 5 to 11 who attend primary school, of whom 845 were parents of children who travelled 2 miles or less to primary school. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st-6th May The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). xii xiii National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) (2012) Walking and cycling: local measures to promote walking and cycling as forms of travel or recreation Living Streets (2011) Making the Case Must try harder why school travel s not making the grade 10

11 Living Streets (The Pedestrians Association) is a Registered Charity No (England and Wales) and SC (Scotland), Company Limited by Guarantee (England and Wales), Company Registration No Registered office 4th Floor, Universal House, Wentworth Street. E1 7SA. May 2013 Design: Living Streets is the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. With our supporters we work to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets, where people want to walk.

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