Wendouree's Forest Street Primary School is leading the way on national Walk Safely to School Day

WALKING: Forest Street Primary School pupils (back L-R) Cam, Ruby, Tanika, Jackson, Pip and (front) Noah with PE teacher Justin Simpkin get in some practice on the paths around their Wendouree school ahead of Friday's national Walk Safely to School Day. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
WALKING: Forest Street Primary School pupils (back L-R) Cam, Ruby, Tanika, Jackson, Pip and (front) Noah with PE teacher Justin Simpkin get in some practice on the paths around their Wendouree school ahead of Friday's national Walk Safely to School Day. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Walking to school was once a rite of passage but today’s pupils are likely to only ever be driven to the school gate.

And that’s bad news for their future health.

Wendouree’s Forest Street Primary School is taking an active lead in encouraging their pupils to walk to school, again signing up for national Walk Safely to School Day.

On Friday teachers and students will meet and walk together about 1km to school.

“It’s a good chance for teachers to spend time with parents and kids in a different way, and we encourage the fitness side of it too” said organiser and sport teacher Justin Simpkin.

“Most of our kids live locally so we encourage them to walk or ride to school and be as active as possible.”

With childhood obesity levels set to soar, the annual Walk Safely to School day encourages primary school children and their parents to adopt an active commute to school, with the goal of making it part of their daily routine.

Less than one in five children meet the national recommendation of 60 minutes of huff and puff activity each day.

A recent study from the Heart Foundation’s LiveLighter campaign found two thirds of children mostly travel to and from school by car.

More than half of parents believe it’s important for children to be able to walk to school without adult supervision, but less than one in three thought it was actually safe for kids to do this.

Parents said distance to school, time, a lack of safe routes and personal safety were the main reasons why they wouldn’t let their children walk independently.

Another study from Latrobe University found perceived disapproval and judgement from other parents, friends and teachers was a strong factor in parents choosing to drive their children rather than let them walk.

Walk Safely to School Day organisers urged parents to walk with their children and build activity in to their daily routines.

“The future health of our children really depends on it. Studies show that children with active parents tend to be active themselves and so it is important that parents share the role of getting the family out and about, then children respond accordingly,” said Active Healthy Kids Australia co-chair Dr Natasha Schranz.