Return to School

A major opportunity to boost activity levels and improve health

The Bailiwick’s return to School on Monday presents a unique opportunity for all sectors of the community to work together to lead healthier, happier lives according to the Health Improvement Commission.

The requirement to maintain social distancing on school buses and at the school gates will mean school buses will operate with reduced seating and the infrastructure around schools will struggle to cope if everyone who would have used the bus simply switches to travelling by car.

The Be Active Team at the Health Improvement Commission recognises the issues that will arise from the change in arrangements but believes that there is a golden opportunity to increase activity levels and establish lifelong healthy habits for the island’s young people.

Alun Williams, the Be Active Lead at the Health Improvement Commission comments:

During lockdown many people embraced the quieter roads, taking opportunities to walk, cycle. At the same time our leaders reinforced the importance of being active through allocation of time to exercise. There seems to be a desire to preserve this legacy of lockdown. 

Evidence indicates that an effective way to increase young people’s activity levels is through helping them to travel  actively  to and from school. There are significant benefits for young people:

  • The benefits of physical activity are profound, active travel is an easy way for children, young people, parents and teachers to build activity into their day. It is free, and has immediate positive benefits to mood and long-term physical health. 
  • Active travel reduces carbon emissions and improves air quality, especially around schools where children play. 
  • For older children and young people, active travel is a great way to support independent mobility.

A Community Response

The Health Improvement Commission is seeking to reassure parents and carers that they are not expecting parents and pupils to do this by themselves. And that the most effective solution will be for the community to work together to make these new arrangements successful.

Alun Williams comments:

We have seen how well Guernsey has worked together in recent weeks and here is another opportunity for us all to play our part in #GuernseyTogether

We’re delighted that the Committee for Environment and Infrastructure have offered to help put in place safe walking routes, pop-up infrastructure and other forms of physical support to create safer routes to schools. Using this as a foundation, everyone can play their part to help young people travel actively. 

  • If you are an employer can you allow parents a flexible start and finish time to do an active / blended school run?
  • If you are a parent can you consider an alternative to the car, such as walking, cycling or scooting? Can you lead by example and switch to walking or cycling all or part of your commute?
  • If you are a child or young person can you walk/ cycle safely, with respect for other road users. Make sure your actions are predictable by those around you.
  • If you drive near a school can you find an alternative route? Can you drive more slowly around schools or where you see people walking / cycling. 

All change presents challenges but the focus on active travel really is a change for good