More than 50 schools in Waltham Forest have become ‘stars’ after staff, pupils and parents, showed their commitment to active and sustainable travel.
Primary and secondary schools, colleges and a pupil referral unit have secured accreditation in the Transport for London’s STARS (Sustainable Travel: Active, Responsible, Safe) programme, which encourages children, parents and teachers to walk, cycle, scoot or take public transport to and from school.
This year nine schools have secured the highest category of Gold status, 17 have been awarded Silver and 26 have secured Bronze accreditation. Schools participate in various events throughout the year to receive accreditation, including holding lessons about healthy lifestyles, air pollution and active travel, as well as participating in events like Walk to School Week, cycle training and the council’s own inter school Mini-Tour de Waltham Forest cycling competition.
Councillor Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Environment said: “We know that the average school run is less than a mile, however unfortunately, a lot of these journeys are carried out by car. Sadly these journeys are unhealthy for all of us, they contribute to rush hour congestion and increase air pollution; impacting on our health, especially the health of our children.
“Four years ago just three schools were accredited with STARS, now more than half of the borough’s schools are getting involved; which is recognition and support for the radical interventions we are making to improve the infrastructure, priority and safety for those walking, cycling and scooting, in particular, so that more can take up these healthier options. We have been working with schools to encourage everyone to change the way they travel to school, whether it’s by creating a walking bus, loaning cycles, providing free cycle training or carrying out anti-idling operations outside the school gates.
“We now know that the changes the council is making are starting to make a real difference. Modelling carried out by internationally renowned King’s College, London has shown that these interventions, improvements in technology and the road improvements we have been making, are helping to improve the life expectancy of our children by creating the infrastructure and priority for more residents of all ages to feel safe to ditch the car and walk and cycle more.”
Whitehall Primary School in Normanton Road, Chingford, joined the programme this year and achieved Bronze accreditation. The school has been proactive in working towards ensuring their children, parents and school community are using more active and sustainable travel modes when travelling to school by hosting lessons about sustainability, travel and pollution. Pupils received free cycle training from the council and hosted a road safety assembly. The school has already begun working towards their Silver accreditation.
Zoe Ioannou, Assistant Headteacher said: “There is tremendous pressure on local roads during rush hour as residents and parents compete to drive around or park close to the school. We’ve been working with pupils to give them the skills and desire to get active on the school run, whether they’re confident cyclists or scooters, or want to meet up with their friends on the walk in.
“We will be continuing this year and hope to work with parents more to help reduce the number of car journeys our pupils are taken on.”
Connaught School for Girls, in Leytonstone, has achieved Silver status. Over the last year students have set up a Youth Travel Ambassadors team and created a campaign to tackle issues around overcrowding on buses, which was presented to transport professionals at the London Transport Museum. Pupils also held their own active travel week and delivered road safety assemblies to their peers. Now more than 75 per cent of pupils travel to school via sustainable modes of transport, with almost 50 per cent of pupils walking every day.
Andrew Pyers, Youth Travel Ambassador Co-ordinator, said: “At Connaught the girls are keen learners about the environmental and physical benefits of travelling sustainably. They have been instrumental in encouraging their peers to walk and cycle more. This year, our students will continue to spread awareness about protecting the environment, getting around independently, acting responsibly and sustainably in their local areas.”
Mission Grove Primary School has been working at Gold accreditation level in recent years. They have worked closely with the council to introduce a staff, student and parent pool bike scheme encouraging the school community to cycle. They also participated in planting the new public realm area outside Queen’s Road Station and will be maintaining the planters in a bid to tackle air pollution around their school.
They have also taken part in Walk to School Week and embedded a solid culture of walking, cycling and using public transport among staff and students. With the commitment of staff the school has been able to introduce two daily walking bus routes to school. Ben Darling, assistant head teacher, said: “The walking bus is a fantastic way to teach about road safety, whilst getting everyone’s step counts up and helping families who had an issue with poor attendance.”
Headteacher Kate Jennings added: “We have been working hard over recent years and I’m delighted that this year we have been accredited with Gold status. Our staff and students really benefit from walking and cycling to school. They are truly committed to travelling sustainably and protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy.”