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Living Streets WOW - walk to school challenge

Encouraging more pupils to walk to school with Living Street’s WOW challenge

Rachel Hazell , Living Streets Co-Ordinator

Living Streets is the UK charity for everyday walking and as part of an initiative funded by the Department for Transport, is now working in partnership with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council’s Sustainable Travel team to encourage more primary school pupils and their parents and carers to walk, cycle or scoot to school.  

Rachel Hazell, a Living Streets Schools Coordinator, tells us how she has been getting schools involved in WOW, their flagship walk to school challenge.

Our walk to school challenge

WOW has been running for over twenty years and thanks to the support from the Department for Transport we’ve been able to offer thousands more schools fully funded resources since 2017. WOW aims to promote the health and environmental benefits of walking to school for primary school-aged children and their families. It plays an integral role in the government’s ambition to ensure more than half of children aged 5 to 10 are walking to school by 2025.

In January this year, Living Streets was able to expand the number of local authorities we partner with – and I was able to start working closely with Ian Selby, Sustainable Travel Officer at BCP Council, to identify ten infant or primary schools across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that would benefit from taking part.

WOW is a pupil-led initiative where children record how they get to school each day on our interactive WOW Travel Tracker. If they actively travel to school, and by this, I mean walk, cycle, scoot or use a local Park and Stride, at least once a week for a month, they get rewarded with one of our collectable badges. It’s that easy!

Our badges have colourful designs created by children in our yearly WOW Badge Design Competition. In fact, we’ve recently announced the winners for next year’s theme – Walk for the World.

Many teachers I have been speaking to understand the benefits that WOW brings in terms of reducing cars at the school gates, getting children more active and arriving at school ready to learn. 

Walk to School 3 med

Due to the pandemic and following school closures, we decided to temporarily adapt WOW.  We made it both about active travel to school and general physical activity at home and from home – giving children and their families an incentive to get out and about when at home. We felt it was important that children who were needing to isolate could also take part. The schools that I spoke to were appreciative of these changes which I think helped them take part in WOW during this disruptive year. Fortunately, as things slowly return to normal for schools and wider society, we can put any COVID adaptations to WOW behind us. We have some exciting new parental engagement features coming to the challenge soon!

The Department for Transport has also recently confirmed further funding for WOW for next academic year 21/22. This means that we can offer the initiative, fully funded, to up to 30 infant or primary schools in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area. This will be a really great way to encourage active travel journeys to school across the conurbation.

In the BCP region, we now have seven schools already running WOW, with another thirteen looking to launch in September for the autumn term. If you think your school could benefit from increasing physical activity and reducing car congestion at the school gate, please apply directly to Living Streets - Free WOW for 2021-22. There are limited places which will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

Alternatively, email your school’s details to the BCP Sustainable Travel team at A2B.team@bcpcouncil.gov.uk