PARENTS AND pupils across Aberdeenshire are abandoning cars in favour of walking or cycling to school. Twenty schools across the region are taking part in a new pilot project called Go For It, which rewards pupils with a point for every journey they make by foot or bicycle between home and school. Once 40 points are accumulated they can be swopped for sessions in leisure facilities owned by participating sponsors.
Twenty years ago 80 per cent of children walked or cycled to school, but by 2004 that figure had fallen to 9 per cent.
Go For It aims to redress the balance by cutting car journeys to and from schools, reducing pollution and congestion, and encouraging healthier lifestyles through walking. Grampian Police's road safety unit is one of the key partners in the council initiative.
Kemnay Primary began to re-instate walking to school a couple of weeks ago, and headteacher Anne Laing says it's going extremely well. "We are saying to the children, 'do try and persuade your mum to let you walk or to walk with you to school, so that we are all in it together'."
The school appointed four junior road safety officers in P6 and P7 to make a presentation to pupils, reminding them how to stay safe on the roads.
"We are finding that they are not remembering all the rules about Stop, Look and Listen. So the safety officers put together an assembly to remind the children how to stay safe while they keep themselves healthy. It's much more effective when the children deliver these messages," says Mrs Laing.
A Park and Stride element to the project means schools can select a suitable dropping-off point for parents a short distance away and pupils can walk the rest. Those who take school buses can win points by doing circuit training at playtime or in the lunch hour.
"If we can reduce the number of cars, it becomes safer for everyone," says Aurelie Irving, the council's school travel planning officer. "It's breaking that vicious circle of parents feeling danger and actually creating more danger by driving all the way to school themselves."