‘Unique opportunity for pupils to be more active and healthy’

THE return to school today presents a unique opportunity to boost activity levels and improve health, the island’s Health Improvement Commission has said.

The requirement to maintain social distancing on school buses and at the school gates will mean school buses will operate with reduced seating and the infrastructure around schools will struggle to cope if everyone who would have used the bus simply switches to travelling by car.

Recognising the issues that will arrive from the change in arrangements, the Be Active Team at the commission believes there is a golden opportunity to increase activity levels and establish lifelong healthy habits for the island’s young people.

‘During lockdown many people embraced the quieter roads, taking opportunities to walk and cycle.

‘At the same time our leaders reinforced the importance of being active through allocation of time to exercise. There seems to be a desire to preserve this legacy of lockdown,’ Be Active lead Alun Williams said.

‘Evidence indicates that an effective way to increase young people’s activity levels is through helping them to travel actively to and from school.’

He outlined significant benefits for young people such as

having immediate positive benefits to mood and long-term physical health, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, especially around schools where children play and for older children and young people, it is a great way to support independent mobility.

The HIC is seeking to reassure parents and carers that they are not expecting them to do this by themselves and that the most effective solution will be for the community to work together to make these new arrangements successful.

‘We’re delighted that Environment & Infrastructure has offered to help put in place safe walking routes, pop-up infrastructure and other forms of physical support to create safer routes to schools. Using this as a foundation, everyone can play their part to help young people travel actively,’ Mr Williams said.

The commission suggested some ways to embrace active routes to school, such as employers allowing their staff flexible start and finish times to support an active school run, or parents considering alternatives to using the car and leading by example.

For those people who want to walk or cycle, have respect for other road users and ensure your actions are predictable for those around you.

And for those who drive near a school, perhaps look at using an alternative route or make sure to drive more slowly around schools or where people are seen to be walking or cycling.

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