Why I'm Giving 'Walk to School Week' Another Go

I like the idea of Walk to School Week. Everything about it is a good thing.

Your kids walk to school and - the risk of pollution aside - it's great for their health. They're getting some exercise and realising that the Dad Cab isn't the only way of getting from A to B. It also means they are doing something that does not involve staring at a screen. Tick.

An important endeavour

What's more, if you go with them, you get a lovely chance to chat about the day ahead and to tune in to your child, as you walk and talk, side by side. You might also get a beatific smile from the deputy head who makes a point of standing outside the school gates checking which families are playing ball - or on-footsy, to be more precise. You also get to nod at a few parents too. It's a different type of nod than the usual slight upward nod of acknowledgement, this is a slow knowing downward one to confirm that you are absolutely sympatico with the aim to 'fully support the school in this important endeavour.'

The initiative also ticks other boxes too. It can encourage road-safety awareness, encourage kids to cycle or scoot to school - this is apparently totally legit as a Walk to School-approved mode of transport - and there's even the chance for your kids to exercise their independence if they are old enough, or you live near enough, for them to head to school on their own via a safe and easy route, perhaps with other neighbours children too.

A well-honed plan

That's not the case for our family though. We live only a mile and a half away from the school, actually 1.45 miles to be precise. Had we been another half-mile away, our daughter probably wouldn't have got a place at the school. It should have been a shoo-in but sadly my elder son who was already there moved up to secondary school and we had to just bite our nails and see if we could get in based on distance. Luckily, we did. But that 1.45 miles is too far to walk in the mornings; there's just not the time. It's a good half-hour on foot, and yet in the car, we're talking ten minutes tops.

Ten to eight, jump in the car. Nine to eight, reluctantly switch the radio back to the inane and puerile pop hits du jour. Eight to eight, realise that someone's left something in the house. It could be me (phone charger; bircher muesli to eat at my desk; important things like that) or my daughter (gym kit, hair-bands, oh, whatever it is, just hurry up and get it). Six to eight, on the way, taking speed-bumps slightly too fast in a bid to get through the lights. Two to eight, heading around the final corner, hoping to get a space just before the jagged 'No Parking' lines by the school. Eight exactly, out of the car, wave goodbye, and pull away, and change of radio station in time for the news. It's a well-honed plan and needs to be if I am to have enough time to get back home, park up, head to the tube station and get to work for nine.

Not that organised

Walk to School Week disrupts the plan. We're just not ready to leave at seven-thirty  because we're just not that organised. May I remind you: we've only just woken up. So not only do I need to be ready twenty minutes earlier than usual, my daughter does too. The first year the school did it, we ignored it. It just wasn't practical for us to try, and no-one seemed to mind too much.

In subsequent years however, the stakes have been raised with a variety of different 'nudge', or perhaps I should say, 'prod' initiatives. We've had pester power in the form of parent-pledge forms, we've had 'Walking Diaries' with ten spaces in like a fast-food loyalty card, all ready to get, literally, a stamp of approval, and we've also had sponsorship sheets, which have seen me grudgingly pay my own good money to encourage me to walk with my daughter to school.

Giving it another go

However, I am not a total stick in the mud. I do think it's an admirable initiative, and I like to support the school and encourage my daughter to be involved since she has a renewed interest in it. So this year we are giving it a go again. After all, she is another year older, can certainly walk quicker than before, and she's particularly keen to do it because they have been talking about climate change and air pollution in school and her friends are all doing it too. What's more, she is going to aim for ten walks out of ten, ten stamps on her card, and will be doing it not just in the morning, but also in the afternoon too. 

I'm spared the return journey as my childminder will collect as usual each afternoon, and has agreed to skip the bus and walk home each day. She's also agreed to wear different coloured clothes each day so that the photos they take will show they were all taken on different days.

A clean conscience

So there we are.

Cynical me is back in my box - and my new trainers are out of theirs. We'll set off each morning and see how we get on. Of course, arriving on foot means that come eight o'clock I am somewhat stranded - a mile and a half from home, and another half mile to the tube station.

It's nothing a Uber can't solve - and since their cars are electric, my conscience will be as clean as my mileage.

So yes, Walk to School Week, I'll give you another go. Five mornings, 7.25 miles, and about thirty quids worth of taxi fares. Let's do it.

Dressing up for Book Week though? Well, let me tell you my thoughts about that another time...

Sean, working full-time; working on his fitness