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Taking steps to boosting pupils’ fitness
COUNCILLORS are taking steps to get more children walking to school in a bid to boost the fitness of youngsters in the Knutsford area.
At Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet meeting on October 15 it was decided that a vast network of overlooked and untapped school routes will be assessed for future use, after it was revealed that some had not been evaluated for at least a quarter of a century.
Since then, improvements have been made to the highway, such as pedestrian crossings and town centre by-passes, which have made walking to school safer.
There are believed to be more than 100 routes which could be reviewed and opened up so children who take the bus or car to school would be able to walk.
Clr Rod Menlove said: “With so many pressures on today’s parents, it seems the humble walk to and from school has been forgotten.
“Driving children to school or placing them on a bus has become the norm due to busier lifestyles and heightened safety concerns.
“But 25 years is a long time and, even though traffic levels have increased, there has been a great deal of work to ensure pedestrians can safely share the highway.
“This review will identify a great number of safe paths and cycle routes in Cheshire East previously overlooked and which would benefit children greatly, and will discount some which are not safe.
“Rediscovering these routes would mean that parents could either consider walking their child to school themselves or joining, or developing a walking bus in their area.
“Walking not only provides vital exercise, it also facilitates time to talk to young people about school.
“All schools have their own travel plans, and we will now be working closely with them to highlight any walking routes that may become available.”
Government legislation stipulates primary school children who live more than two miles from their nearest school are entitled to free transport. The distance rises to three miles for secondary school children.
The assessment of new or existing routes could mean some children who qualify for free transport because of distance criteria now have a shorter route to school and so lose out on free transport.
It could also mean that some routes never previously assessed are no longer considered to be suitable, and some children may now become eligible for transport assistance.
Clr Menlove added: “There are some things we, as a council, cannot continue to fund in these challenging economic times. Subsidising school transport when there are reasonable alternatives would not be in council tax payers’ best interests.
“The assessments will be very thorough, and we will be working with local members where necessary to ensure that community concerns are taken into account.”