The day we cracked the school run issue

4th July 2003 at 01:00
My osteopath has had a good idea. As he pummelled my back one day not long ago, we were chatting about the delights of driving. He and I enjoy our cars a lot, and have both been done for speeding on the same stretch of the A30.

Somewhere around the ninth vertebra, we agreed there are far too many people on the road getting in our way. And we agreed the recent press frenzy about the school run was absolutely right and immediate action should be taken to deal with it.

At this point I felt a twinge of guilt and admitted to being partially responsible for urban congestion myself for many years, when taking my daughter to school. Whereupon my osteopath, whose father was a vicar and who was therefore brought up with a strict regard for truth, confessed he still regularly clogs up the roads at 8.30am and 3.45pm every day. But then he told me his idea.

Every school, he said, should do a survey of where its pupils live. Then they should contact families living in the same area and suggest creating a school-run rota. Parents could be put in touch with one another with a view to sharing lifts.

It's a simple idea, but a good one. As a school-running parent, I would have been only too glad to share the burden with someone else, but a) didn't necessarily know parents who lived nearby, and b) even if I did, would have been far too overcome by English reserve to suggest a car share.

What I needed was a friendly push from someone in authority who would also take on the task of preliminary organisation.

However, as a headteacher's wife, I also knew what would happen if I went home and raved about this solution to an important problem. "Oh, fine - oh, yes," the husband would say. "I should be organising car rotas. Brilliant! I'll fit it in on Thursday afternoon between chairing the governors'

meeting and dealing with the nit epidemic, shall I?"

So the osteopath and I talked this one through too. In primary schools, there's no problem - Year 5 can do it. They have to do "issues in" geography, so what greater issue these days than traffic congestion? A then there is persuasive writing in literacy hour, so why not combine the two with a bit of numeracy?

Traffic surveys, topography, time and distance sums - surely the numeracy hour stretches to this sort of thing? They could sort the whole thing out in a week or so. And with the children involved it would be bound to take off.

We were somewhat shakier on the demands of the curriculum in secondary schools, but there must surely be a place for it there too in geography or personal, social and health education.

By the time my vertebrae had been beaten into submission, my osteopath and I had the problem sewn up. The children would be given a copy of the register and a map of the local area. They would collate and record on a database (information and communications technology skills) details of children's addresses and after-school clubs and societies attended on particular days of the week, and draw up a provisional car-share register.

They would then draft, edit and produce on the computer neat letters to parents suggesting the scheme (literacy again). They would arrange a special whole-school and parents' assembly, with a specially scripted presentation (speaking and listening) about the importance of easing local traffic congestion (geography) and cleaning up the environment (science).

And everyone would cheer and sign up there and then.

If Charles Clarke or Alastair Darling want to know more, my osteopath will be only too glad to speak to them. And he will sort their bad backs, too.

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