Can we really make a difference?

After a successful Walk to School week at St James C of E Primary School, we asked head teacher Doug Stitcher, to share his reflections:

“I’m getting old… I’ve worked at five schools over 21 years and been the head of two of them. I’ve seen a lot of ‘Walk to School’ initiatives come and go! I’ve given out stickers, I’ve tied banners to the school gates and I’ve held countless assemblies.

“But surely this raises the question: “If ‘Walk to School’ weeks work in having a long-term impact on parental habits, why do we feel the need to keep doing them?”

“I think the answer lies in timing. 15 years ago, petrol was 50% cheaper than it was even before the current crisis. Global warming was a myth to be challenged. Exercise was something we knew we should do, but ultimately got in the way of our other plans.

“So, we would promote and advertise, some of the children would walk to school for five days, they’d get their badges and we’d hail its success. Yet the following Monday would see the streets surrounding school packed full of SUVs driven by parents who live three minutes away from school. Then another six months would pass and we’d do it all again.

“We live in different times. Fuel has never been more expensive. The threat from global warming is real and for many of our families, tangible. And we are more acutely aware of the benefits of a healthy life-style than ever before.

“This time, the benefits of a ‘Walk to School’ week are amplified. Not just as a one-off, but almost as a trial for a future way of living better. It’s cheaper. It’s better for the environment. It’s healthier.

“That’s how we’ve sold it to our families. We’re just coming to the end of the most successful ‘Walk to School’ week I’ve seen in my career – organised with the help of the indomitable Cheryl Sandford, Connect Communities Co-ordinator.

“Personally, I believe its success, in part, is down to timing. Now is the time to push for alternative ways of travelling to school because now, more than ever, it will benefit everyone.

“So, can we really make a difference? Of course. It’s why we do what we do. But I think for a ‘Walk to School’ week to lead to impactful and long-term change, we need to show our parents what is in it for them. We can’t change the world on our own. But we can all make a difference.”

Parents and teachers across the borough can bring about lasting changes to the ways we think about ordinary everyday journeys, like the school run.

If you have a story to share about how your family or school are making a difference, get in touch so we can shout about it and inspire others in BwD to get involved.

Local children deserve to grow up with clean air and expect to have healthy lives, and active travel can deliver both of these to our communities.


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