Increasing levels of activity on the journey to school

Pupils from Cale Green school on their bikes in the playground, credit Livia Lazar

When we first started working with Cale Green, 26% of the children were driven to school. This has now reduced to 6%

Cale Green has worked with Sustrans since 2011. During that period, our officers have worked to increase physical activity levels amongst their pupils through walking, cycling and scooting. With the support of a dedicated school’s officer, pupils have participated in a wide range of activities all aimed at engaging and empowering children, parents and staff to lead more active lifestyles.

Cale Green Primary School in Stockport serves pupils from a wide range of backgrounds, reflecting the diverse community found in the Cale Green and Davenport area. It has 280 pupils aged 3-11 years old.

When we first started working with the school, 26% of the children were driven to school. This has now reduced to 6%. By working in partnership with Sustrans, two thirds of pupils now regularly cycle, walk or scoot to school. On activity days this can leap to more than 90%. 

The challenge

The school aims to enable all pupils to ride a balance bike by the time they finish in the Early Years and be able to ride independently before they move to Secondary School. Whilst this is a challenging aspiration, it ensures that staff, pupils and parents understand the goal and are working together to increase levels of physical activity.

Working in partnership is the key to success

Working in partnership with us, the school has taken many steps to increase the number of pupils cycling, walking or scooting to school. The first step was to improve the infrastructure in and around the school to allow pupils to travel actively.

With the support and guidance of their Sustrans school’s officer they sought funding from their Local Authority to install both bike and scooter parking within the school grounds.

Cale Green then worked closely with regeneration charity, Groundwork. The process allowed pupils to be involved in the installation of a new cycle path, designing mosaics for the route and planting trees on its borders. Involving the pupils in the decision-making helped build enthusiasm for cycling, scooting and walking to school. 

The Sustrans approach to increasing active travel to school

With infrastructure in place, we were able to support the school in the following ways to change the behaviour of the pupils:

  • Learn to ride sessions. Many pupils were unable to ride a bike before Sustrans’ involvement with Cale Green. Our officers ensured that all pupils left the school in Year 6 being able to ride a bike
  • Dr Bike sessions. Links were made with a local bike shop in order for trained mechanics to visit the school regularly and fix pupil’s bicycles
  • Bike Breakfasts. Here pupils that travel actively are rewarded with a free breakfast when they arrive at school
  • Route Planning. Our officers worked with a range of age groups to assess the risk of their journeys to school. Officers helped them plan and select routes to school
  • Ditch the Stabilisers sessions. Pupils learn to ride without stabilisers and improve their skills

Motivating children to walk and cycle to school

Every fortnight teachers give the class that has the greatest number of pupils walking and cycling to school a free playtime. This has had an incredibly positive impact on motivating pupils to travel actively.  Staff within the school are keen for their pupils to be involved in the planning of events that take place. Their Eco Council lead on this, organising events throughout the year.

Cale Green also participate in UK wide events such as The Big Pedal and Superhero Day. These help to further the enthusiasm for travelling to school actively. Using their local knowledge and relationships, our officers supported Cale Green in making links with local bike projects and other supportive organisations such as Living Streets and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Results: A cultural change

The active travel culture that Sustrans staff have helped to build has led to a huge shift in attitudes towards active travel which has been embraced by families. The PTA has also funded balance bikes and they often see parents cycling to school with their children then cycling off to work.

The children arrive at school energised and ready to learn. They are really enthusiastic about cycling and fitness, and they understand that these activities impact on their own health and the environment.

- Headteacher David Marshall

Parents want to be involved and even those that can’t cycle with their children will put the bikes in the car and park so pupils can at least cycle the last stretch to the school gate.

Cale Green isn’t an area where cycling is mainstream but parents can see the culture the school has created and they understand the benefits of activity to their children.

Cale Green have benefitted from the support of committed teachers and volunteers who have worked incredibly hard to develop a supportive and enthusiastic school community in the widest sense, which encourages more walking and cycling to school. This has sent a strong message to pupils, parents and funders.

Get in touch

To find out more about how we can work with your school to increase active travel and make the most of your School Sports Premium please use our contact form.

Alternatively contact our Sustrans offices around the UK

More about our behaviour change work in schools