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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Is it time to tackle the school run?
Government plans issued on Wednesday will attempt to persuade parents to get their children to walk, cycle or take the bus to school.

Other proposals include staggering school timetables to ease congestion during peak hours.

Local education authorities could draw up "travel plans", involving safer routes, more road crossings, lower speed limits and cycle paths.

Twice as many children are driven to school as twenty years ago and there are also concerns about the increasing prevalence of obesity among children who lead sedentary lifestyles.

What do you think of the government proposals? Should we encourage our children to use alternative methods of travelling to school? Should more be done to discourage the school run?


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

20 years ago teachers themselves would walk or take the bus, now they use the car
Tom, England
Surely the lead should first of all be coming from ministers, councillors, and teachers themselves. The local civic centre here in Gateshead has a car park which is bigger than the building itself!! 20 years ago teachers themselves would walk or take the bus, now they use the car. Why should our kids be the ones to be picked on? Is this the easy option?
Tom, England

My nephew is due to go to secondary school. Although there is a school bus laid on, if he wants to use it, it would cost my sister 30.00 a month. If he made his own way to school it would take two buses and about an hour, so my sister has no alternative but to drive him to school and pick him up.
Kelly Petersen, Wales

Reading these comments, some of the problem appears to be the totally erroneous belief that there is a child-abductor hiding behind every lamp post. There is not. Please, parents, stop condemning your children to a life of fear, obesity and ill-health and make them walk to school.
Karen S, England

At present we make 10 journeys a day to take our kids to school
S Alexander, Cornwall
We live nearly two-and-three-quarter miles from the school north of Camelford on the A39. Every year the council turn down appeals from parents in our village for bus places for the children because the distance is less than three miles, we await a similar outcome to our appeal.
At present we make 10 journeys a day to take our kids to school. My 11 year old attends the local comp (8.15am start). My 8 year old attends the local junior school (9am start). My 4 year old attends nursery (9am start but needs collecting at 11.30am) My 11 year old then needs collecting at 2.30pm, and my 8 year old needs collecting at 3.20pm. We live on the A39 which is a busy road with no street lights, footpaths or verges. We are not able to let our children walk to school on their own or accompanied as it is too dangerous (and too far!). We would like to cut our school runs down but are unable to obtain any help to do this. Government proposals like this are obviously aimed at those living in less rural areas of the country and do not take into account the dangerous situations faced by children living in the countryside.
S Alexander, Cornwall

If school traffic is 20% of total at school run time, why not tackle the 80%? Some hope! It's easier to pick on schoolchildren. Why don't local councils and the government provide more school buses instead of less?
Chris, UK

I grew up in Manchester and we always walked to infants and junior school, a 20 minutes walk from our house, accompanied by our father, who has always acknowledged the benefits of exercise. Only in bad weather would he take us in the car. The walk to school, which involved walking the dog at the same time, was an integral part of HIS daily keep fit routine, following 20 mins bedroom exercises. Today, at 75, he continues this daily routine, albeit minus dog and kids! And we are following his example!
Deborah Oppenheimer, Israel

Bring back the School Bus. It worked 30 years ago and children got to school, safe and dry. It just needs a little thought, planning, design and finance but then these concepts are not really obvious with this government that is why we have chaos outside our schools.
Mike Hall, UK

The school run is a menace, we have a school in our road and I come home to find cars parked in my drive! It is high time we introduced school buses similar to those in the USA, basic transport that picks up and drops off the school children. I listened with interest to the reports on radio and TV yesterday about this subject and to here "well if the weather is bad we need to use the car" well my parents never had a car and we used to walk 2.5 miles to and from school rain, hail or shine, no wonder our kids are couch potatoes if at the first sign of cloud the car comes out.
Jon, UK

During my primary school years the headmaster would not allow me to bring my bike onto school grounds. Then at secondary school they demolished their bike sheds several years ago, so once again we have the problem of where to park our bikes if the students want to cycle.
Will Carlyle (14) England

Let's introduce more cycle paths for organised cycle runs to school, with a rota of parents in charge. I will NEVER let my children walk to school unsupervised, in light of some of the sick opportunists walking our streets. Let's get the old fashioned policing back, with more bobbys on the beat.
Jill Wolsey, England

You'd have to run pretty fast to drag them from their bikes!
Alexandra, The Netherlands
You only have to take a look at the difference in size between the Dutch children and the English children to realise there's a real problem in the UK. And no, children are not routinely abducted on the way to school here, you'd have to run pretty fast to drag them from their bikes! My sister-in-law used to cycle 18km to and from secondary school, as a result she's kept up her fitness and looking fab at 40!
Alexandra, The Netherlands

The reason why we have a school run is nothing to do with fear of attack, bad weather or traffic dangers. It comes from the stupid idea of allowing parents to choose schools that are miles away from their homes. Neighbourhood schools would remove the need at a stroke.
Mike H, UK

At the age of 5 I was expected to take myself to school using a public service bus. That was perfectly normal in 1955 and no-one had the slightest concern. If a parent sent an unaccompanied child of that age on a bus now, that parent would be in prison before your could blink.
Maurice, England

Oh geez...now we are condemning "scrummies" for being good Mummies! Whether it's safer, more convenient or a way to have one on one time with their children, it's doing more good than harm. Don't we have something more important to complain about?
Liz, UK

Most people start work at 9am as do school's. Why not get school's to start there day at say 8:30 then you can walk your children to school before heading off to work.
Garry, Wiltshire, ENGLAND

Many of the posts here sum up the typical British driver: impatient, intolerant, selfish and bad mannered. School run drivers have as much right to be on the road as anyone else. Deal with it.
George, UK

It's every parent's right to decide whether or not they are happy for their child to walk to school
Sarah, Liphook, England
In these times when child abductions, attacks, and God forbid murders, are becoming ever more frequent, I think it is absolutely every parent's right to decide whether or not they are happy for their child to walk or cycle to school. Making walking routes to school more accessible and safer is to be welcomed, but what about tackling the threats to our children which are beyond the school's control, like speeding motorists, paedophiles and child molesters? And, like me, more and more mothers work, and drop off their child at school en route to work. Time is precious as it is - not all of us have the time to walk to and from school twice a day in addition to running the household and working!
Sarah, Liphook, England

Considering we are talking about Liphook, a serene rural town, I find the level of concern about molesters, paedophiles and murder far more worrying than any actual danger. It is no more prevalent now than ever, unlike speeding motorists late for school.
Martin, UK

It is also time to stop people driving to work. You can't always blame children.
Benjamin Adams, Ebgland

It's not the amount of traffic in the school run; it's the way the parents drive. If schools provided staff to escort the kids from the car door to the school gates, the parents would probably not have to stop for five minutes, and they could be on their way in 10 seconds. When picking the children up, a maximum wait time of 30 seconds should be enforced. At least the traffic would keep moving, albeit slowly.
Steve W, UK

Parents complain about road safety for their children. However the greatest danger is invariably around the school gates where parents park double and on junctions. People often campaign for Gatsos outside schools but rarely for "zig zag" marked areas to stop parking and allow safe crossing.
Gareth, Wales

It's no wonder that parents don't feel safe letting their children alone
John, UK
Since every other week or so it seems there's another story of someone either abducting, or sexually assaulting a young girl, it's no wonder that parents don't feel safe letting their children alone. There was a time in the past when it wasn't safe to leave children to their own devices, sadly those days are returning and no amount of reminiscing about a social golden age is going to help, its over, deal with the cause not the knock on effects.
John, UK

1, Teach the kids how to walk. 2, Give them a clue about local geography. Until recently, my 11 year old could barely find the end of the road. She has no concept as to the location of local landmarks. I find this frightening as I like many of your correspondents thought nothing of walking miles at her age. I'm not to blame, for her "problem" I'm relatively new to the arrangements! 3, Double the road tax for 4x4's. 4, Introduce more walking buses. 5, Reinforce the traffic laws outside schools. I'm sure a few parking tickets would make the scrummies think twice about the school run.
Bill Neat, UK

US-style school buses will not solve the problem; here in the States we have just as many "scrummies" clogging the roads in their SUVs. I know one mother who won't let her 14-year-old boy walk half a mile to school! The problem is that the media over the last 20 years have convinced everyone that child-snatchers live on every corner. I imagine that having one's children walk to school is looked upon by other parents as a form of child abuse.
Danielle, USA

I got a bus, or I walked, it was 2.5 miles and was only ten years ago. A lift to school was a rare treat. Kids today are lazy, fat and useless, just like the spoiling parents who insist on coddling their kids who in turn are going to become fat, lazy useless parents themselves.
Andy, UK

Offer incentives for those who do not come by car
Ian, UK
Bring back lollipop men and women, increase the number of pedestrian crossings on major roads and provide safe cycle paths, not just a strip of green paint painted along the side of the road. Offer incentives for those who do not come by car - free snacks, school meals, help with uniform costs, etc. Staggering school timetables is the most ridiculous suggestion this government has made to date. How are working parents supposed to cope with that?
Ian, UK

The main congestion arises from parents who insist on ferrying one or two children in every 5 seater car or 4x4, perhaps some initiative to encourage car-pooling could solve this, if not, I agree that US style designated school-buses should solve the problem.
Janice Newbury, UK

There is a primary school in my road, and the vast majority of parents drive their children to school, despite the fact that they must live within walking distance to be in the catchment area! This leads to the streets in the surrounding area being clogged with 4x4s and people carriers, many with only one child in. I attended the same school 20 years ago, but I walked there every day - my parents would never have dreamt of driving me. No wonder children are getting fat these days if they never have to use their legs to get anywhere!
Sarah, London, UK

During the holidays my daily commute is a pleasant 5 minute drive. During term time it is a 20 minute nightmare. I'm in favour of any steps to reduce the number of scrummies (school run mummies!) although I suspect a change in parent's attitudes is required, rather than any action the local authorities may take.
Tony, UK

The school run is actually making the surrounding roads far more dangerous
David Hazel, UK
Our local primary school is within easy walking distance of the road where I live, which is one of the furthest roads on the estate from the school. Yet the road immediately adjacent to the school is regularly packed to danger level with parked cars delivering children to school in the mornings. I would say that, around some schools (ours certainly), the school run is actually making the surrounding roads far more dangerous to both children and other road users, due to the tendency of parents to all park in the same small area immediately next to the school. I agree wholeheartedly with encouraging parents to use other means than their own cars to get their children to school.
David Hazel, UK

I don't want the school opening times staggered. I'm on flexible hours, and I simply don't leave for work between 8am and 9am. If all the school opening times are staggered, I'll have to suffer the mums in their SUVs every morning. Anything but that.
Simon Richardson, UK

Tackling the school run means offering viable alternatives. That implies having schools near your home that you would want to send you kids to, offering walking routes that are safe both from traffic and dangerous individuals. This means school opening and closing times having lollipop persons, police etc. Also what about congestion charging in school roads?
Matt, UK

There is no way we'd have time in the morning to walk our children to school
Bee, UK
Due to the lifestyle of a lot of today's mums, myself included, there is no way we'd have time in the morning to walk our children to school and I certainly would not let my 6 year old walk by herself. That is, unfortunately, a sign of the times. It's just not safe any more. I'm not sure I'd even let her catch a school bus on her own.
Bee, UK

Yes. Ban the school run. I walked to school when I was younger. The school-run parents are the same parents who call for speed cameras and drastic limits. Yet, it is they who park on street corners in their horrible trucks with windows (4x4's), obscuring visibility for other drivers. There seems to be one-upmanship in who can bring their kids in the biggest 4x4 known to mankind.
Taz, UK

I drop my 6 year old daughter off and go straight to work afterwards. Last year I gave up the car and we walked to school then I walked to the train station to get the last possible public transport to get to work on time. The train rarely turned up on time, if it turned up at all. I had several viral illnesses. I ended up late at work and off sick for 3 weeks. Now I use the car, I get to work on time (just) and feel much fitter.
Michele Chew, UK

Alternatives to the school run require more and better footpaths and bike routes. But the government has recently authorised local authorities to CLOSE some urban footpaths for "security reasons". Are they mad?
John Hopton, England

I would prefer that school buses were brought back
Sarah, England
It is all very well that the government wants to spend money on promoting walking and cycling to school, but what if it is too far to walk? The roads are too dangerous for children to cycle. I would prefer that school buses were brought back. I have to commute to work each day with hordes of schoolchildren from 5 different schools on one single decker bus. All of these children are paying a child fare to and from school; a nice profit for the bus company! There's standing room only, and that's only if the bus driver chooses to stop at my bus stop. Often the bus is already full by the time it reaches me. As a consequence, the buses are getting later, not running to the timetable, and I am getting later for work.
Sarah, England

The traffic on my street is backed up about 200 yards during the school run period - the queue of traffic is largely made up of four wheel drive land cruiser type vehicles, each with one adult and a child or two inside. They are all going to the same destination and coming from roughly the same area - the opportunity to share rides is there but sadly never taken.
Dan, UK

The distances mentioned in your article for entitlement to travel on school buses were set in 1948 when almost every village had a school. These are out of date and need to be revised if there is to be any hope of reducing the number of cars doing the school run.
Dave Wright, England

When I attended secondary school the policy was you had to attend the local secondary school unless your parents could afford private education. Halfway through my time at this school the rules changed and let parents send their children to any school regardless of its location. At the same time the amount of traffic around the school during peak hours exploded.
Sarah, UK

When I was a child I travelled to school on a school bus. Why can't today's kids to the same?
Dan B, UK

The obvious answer is we need US-style school buses.
Richard, UK




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