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Walking bus scheme is latest step in school’s clean air campaign

Pupils from the Glebelands School walking bus service

A SCHEME to help schoolchildren swap car journeys for walking one day each week has been getting into its stride in one Leicester neighbourhood.

Pupils at Glebelands Primary School, in Chancel Road, Beaumont Leys, are taking part in a new walking bus initiative each Wednesday morning, encouraging them to choose sustainable, safe ways to get to school.

It comes as schools across the country mark Walk To School Week 2021, which includes a programme of activities and events highlighting the health and environmental benefits of walking and encouraging pupils and their parents to give it a go.

The scheme at Glebelands Primary School is the result of work between the school staff and Leicester City Council to create a safe, sociable way for local children to walk to school, and to reduce the number of vehicles at busy drop-off times in the streets around the primary school.

The scheme began in April, and has seen scores of Key Stage 2 children aged between seven and 11 joining up for the supervised walk to the school gates.

It is the latest stage of the school’s work to promote alternatives to car use on the school run. To mark Clean Air Day back in 2018, Glebelands hosted a street party for the local community by closing off the road outside the school and transforming it into a traffic-free activity zone. 

Glebelands Primary School headteacher Lawrence Lee said: “Since the success of the Clean Air Day events we did back in 2018, we’ve been very keen to continue the momentum with a walking bus scheme.

“We’ve been working closely with Leicester City Council for guidance and suggestions to help the school launch its walking bus service.

“It has only been running since April 21, but we’re very encouraged by the turnout so far, and the children who have done it come rain or shine.

“Reducing the number of vehicles coming to the school at morning drop-off time even just one day a week gives us a glimpse of a much safer journey to school, as well as improvements in air quality and the chance for children to socialise with their friends along the way.”

Leicester City Council’s air quality education officer, Danielle Kennell, added: “This whole idea has come from the school staff, and we’ve been able to advise them on how to do it safely, and help to educate pupils on the importance of swapping cars for more sustainable transport choices.

“I’ve taken along our mascot Clean Air Clive, to accompany some of the children on the route. It’s very encouraging to see so many pupils playing their part in taking responsibility for the quality of their local environment.”

A range of related activities focusing on sustainable travel in the city, including numerous walking and cycling and eco-schools projects, have taken place. These have included the Sustrans Schools cycling project, the Living Street WOW Walk to School challenge, and the Beat the Street scheme to reward pupils who can find as many ways to walk, run, cycle or scoot to school.

Cllr Elly Cutkelvin, Leicester assistant city mayor for schools, said: “It’s really good to see schools like Glebelands leading the way in organising this walking bus service, and helping to instil those messages of safety and sustainability from such a young age.”

Throughout May 2021, the Walk Leicester Festival is taking place, with a wealth of information on guided walks to key sites of interest around the city, activity trails and quizzes.

Leicester deputy city mayor for environment and transportation, Cllr Adam Clarke, added: “The walking bus service at Glebelands is exactly the kind of project that helps young people understand the importance of creating safer streets around schools, as well as cutting pollution and encouraging healthier alternatives to car use for shorter journeys.”

More details on Walk to School Week are available here.

Information on the Walk Leicester Festival is available here.