As charity Living Streets launches its latest campaign to get more youngsters walking to school, Jamie Bowman finds out more about the benefits and how one local authority is already a step ahead...

PUPILS in Wales will be able to benefit from getting active on the school run, now a UK-wide walk to school programme has launched across Wales.

Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking is bringing WOW - the year-round walk to school challenge to schools across Wales, with resources available in dual language, allowing all pupils in Wales to take part.

WOW launched with a walk to school and an assembly at Ysgol Glan Morfa, Splott, in Cardiff.

Pupils from the school were joined by Strider, the Living Streets mascot; Cllr Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council and Lee Waters AM, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport.

With WOW, pupils record their journeys to school daily on the interactive WOW Travel Tracker. Those who walk to school at least once a week for a month are awarded a WOW badge, 11 of which can be collected throughout the year. All badges are made in the UK from recycled yoghurt-pot material.

The Leader:

In primary schools, WOW sees walking rates increase on average by 23 per cent and is met with a corresponding drop in car use.

Walking to school is an easy and accessible way for children to move more, whilst also helping to reduce congestion and air pollution around the school gates.

Despite the benefits, just 42 per cent of primary school aged children in Wales walk to school.

At the same time, just 63 per cent of boys and 45 per cent of girls in Wales are active for at least 60 minutes a day, five times a week - the time recommended for them to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight.

Rhiannon Hardiman, Wales manager, Living Streets said: “Walking to school is an easy way for children to fit more activity into their day. More children walking to school means fewer cars around the school gates - making them safer and cleaner places.

“WOW - our year-round walk to school challenge has increased walk to school rates in over 2,000 schools across the UK.

“It’s simple to run and pupils love to take part. Just a few minutes of a teacher’s day is needed to make a big difference. We can’t wait to help more pupils and schools across Wales walk to school.”

Mr Waters added: “Schemes such as this are a step in the right direction in improving the health of our nation, improving air quality and reducing the number of cars on our roads. I am pleased to see the initiative spreading into Wales and encourage more schools to contact Living Streets and sign up.”

The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 was brought in five years ago with the aim of making it easier for people to walk and cycle in Wales.

The Act makes it a legal requirement for local authorities in Wales to map and plan for suitable routes for active travel, and to build and improve their infrastructure for walking and cycling every year.

It creates new duties for highways authorities to consider the needs of walkers and cyclists and make better provision for them.

It also requires both the Welsh Government and local authorities to promote walking and cycling when delivering the duties under the Act.

The intention is that by facilitating connections, and information about connections between key sites such as workplaces, hospitals, schools and shopping areas with active travel routes, the Act will encourage people to rely less on their cars when making short journeys.

Last summer it was announced than £1.7m will be invested in Flintshire as part of the drive to encourage more people to walk or cycle, after Flintshire Council put in a bid to the Welsh Government’s Active Travel Fund.

Approximately £1.07m will be used to invest in active travel and bus services at Parkway on Deeside Industrial Park, with a separate sum of £697,000 being set aside to improve walking and cycling links in Holywell, as well as to create an active travel path in Greenfield.

The investment comes after the latest update on Active Travel’s success revealed that while 11% of people in Flintshire cycled more often than once a month, only 14% said they walked every day - the lowest for a local authority in Wales compared to 44% walking every day in Cardiff which was the highest.

Cllr Carolyn Thomas, the Flintshire’s cabinet member Streetscene and countryside said: “We are very pleased to have received Welsh Government funding to deliver these much needed active travel infrastructure projects.

“The council are continually investigating ways to increase levels of walking and cycling and the provision of this funding will go a long way in achieving this goal.

“Improved levels of walking and cycling will improve the health and wellbeing of our communities and also help to improve air quality.”

More than £10m has been earmarked for individual projects and packages of schemes across Wales.

All local authorities were invited to submit applications and a total of 35 were received, including 16 applications for strategic schemes, and 19 applications for local schemes.

Ms Hardiman added: “We want to create a nation where walking is the natural choice for everyday, local journeys; free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illnesses and social isolation.

“We want to achieve a better walking environment and to inspire people of all generations to enjoy the benefits the simple act of walking brings.

“For 90 years we’ve been a beacon for walking. In our early days our campaigning led to the UK’s first zebra crossings and speed limits. Now our campaigns and local projects deliver real change to overcome barriers to walking and our groundbreaking initiatives such as the world’s biggest Walk to School campaign encourage millions of people to walk.

“A generation ago, 70 per cent of us walked to school but it is now estimated less than half do the same. Despite the benefits, just 42 per cent of primary school aged children in Wales walk to school.

“We want to reverse this decline. We want children to be energised and empowered, and to make walking to school their natural choice.”

To find out more about WOW, visit