Headlines: December 14th, 2009

A scheme to encourage children to walk to school has helped boost the number of pupils travelling on foot to schools taking part by almost a fifth according to an independent evaluation. Almost 2,000 schools have signed up to the WoW – Walk Once a Week – campaign run by the charity Living Streets.

Local authorities and schools sign up for the scheme and have to pay for badges and other resources, which are given to children who take part. The scheme has grown steadily since its introduction in London in 2005. It is estimated to have increased the number of pupils getting to school on foot by 19 per cent according to a study funded by the Department of Transport.

There are currently 1,895 schools taking part in England with 20 others in Scotland and Wales and they are reported to have a higher incidence of walking than other schools. Getting more children to be physically active is seen as a priority because forecasts suggest a quarter of children will be clinically obese by 2050.

The Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron said: “Doing the school run on foot is a really easy way to get your family moving. Children are advised to be active for 60 minutes a day and adults for 30 minutes a day five times a week. A walk to school can go towards that target.”

Living Streets Chief Executive, Tony Armstrong, said reducing the risk of obesity was a priority for anyone involved in children’s health or education but it was often hard to know what worked and what to focus on in a time of tight budgets. “That’s why we commissioned an independent review of the scheme,” he added.