South of the River – Born To Run

Two news stories caught my attention this week. The first one was about a Scottish school that pioneered a fifteen minute run round the school at the start of the school day. I say pioneered because the idea has been taken up by 3,600 schools in 35 countries, although I’ve not heard that it’s caught on in South Leeds.

The second story was a call to ban the “school run” by clean air campaigners. The campaigners weren’t trying to stop children running you understand, they want parents to stop taking children to school by car.

They point to a concentration of congested roads around schools producing pollution hot spots and the damage that can be done to still developing lungs. It’s particularly bad in the afternoon when parents often hang around with their engines idling – you can make an easy improvement just by switching the engine off whilst you wait.

Better still, walk your children to school. The vast majority of primary school children live within walking distance of their school. But there are a couple of problems with this aren’t there?

First up you don’t want to be the first to stop using your car. Think about it – other parents are still polluting the roads that your children are now walking along. Well the good news, if you can call it that, is that the worst place for your child to be in terms of car pollution is not on the pavement, but in the car.

Who knew? We all think we are in an impenetrable bubble, safe from the world with our doors locked. Unfortunately Nitrogen Oxide (Nox) doesn’t see it that way. Whilst it’s not too bad in free flowing traffic, slow moving and stationary traffic are especially bad.

That’s all very well, you say, but even with the congestion, driving to school is quicker than walking and getting the children out the door on time is already a daily struggle.

I feel your pain, I have the t-shirt tucked away somewhere. But if you think about it logically you are working to a deadline – the start of the school day. All you have to do is shift that deadline forwards by ten minutes, get up ten minutes earlier.

Now we’ve sorted the school run out, what about getting the school running? St Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling realised their children were not fit and a run around the playing field proved this. The whole school community, including the children decided to do something about this and started 15 minutes of exercise at the start of the day.

They found that this not only helped with fitness, but also with academic achievement. The children were warmed up, alert and ready to learn when they went back into the classroom. This has been shown in countless studies. Some schools do ‘Wake Up, Shake Up’ routines, some have tried yoga. All these things work.

So if you’re a competitive parent who wants to see your child at the top of the class, you can give them a head start by walking them to school and giving them an extra ten minutes exercise!

It’s time to stop the school run and start the school running.

I’ll be on back soon with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.