MORE children are being encouraged to think about walking or cycling to school when everyone returns to the classroom in September.
With fewer places available on public transport for the foreseeable future, Staffordshire County Council is encouraging parents to think about alternatives that will avoid traffic congestion, parking problems and air pollution at the school gates.
While around 8,000 children are entitled to free home to school transport in Staffordshire, approximately another 112,000 make their own way to and from school every day.
Philip White, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Learning and Employability, said: "Many children walk or cycle to school already and obviously we want them to continue, because it’s good for them and good for the environment.
"However, we are very worried that the number of people who travel to school by car may increase in the autumn.
"If school run traffic does rise there will be more road congestion, parking problems outside already busy schools and increased air pollution.
"We have already begun working with schools to develop local travel plans where appropriate and we want parents to think if their child can walk or cycle to school – and if that’s not possible look at ideas like ‘park and stride’ where they can be safely dropped off and picked up a little distance from the school rather than at the gates.”
Staffordshire County Council will be working through the summer with head teachers and transport regarding travel planning for the autumn, after updated government guidance was issued in July.
Free home to school transport will continue in September for those entitled to it with additional temporary hygiene and safety measures on dedicated school services. Those entitled to free travel on public transport will also be able to get to school without a problem, with the county council willing to provide temporary increased capacity on busy routes if necessary.
Help and advice for schools and parents about walking, cycling, ‘park and stride’ is available here and parents are advised to regularly check their school’s website and Facebook page as appropriate for local plans.
Coun White added: "There are 401 schools in Staffordshire. There are 800 Home to School transport routes moving 8,000 pupils – it’s a huge operation and then you have tens of thousands more journeys to add in.
We hope that schools and their communities can work together to reduce the number of cars at school gates and the council will support them as much as we can.
"We are keeping the situation under review and will update parents as the situation changes, but it’s essential that parents start planning ahead because it is not a return to normality in September.”