A groundbreaking initiative spearheaded by the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has seen more than 2000 children in the region actively engaging in eco-friendly and healthier means of travelling to school. The “Little Feet” programme, designed to impart knowledge about the environmental, physical, and social advantages of walking to school, has successfully enrolled 2049 children between the ages of two and five years old. With thirty schools and nurseries actively participating or signed up to take part, the programme is making impressive strides toward sustainable transportation habits.

In recent weeks, children at Mount Pleasant Primary in Huddersfield and Hirst Wood Nursery in Saltaire have had the unique opportunity to participate in a “school route audit.” Under the guidance of the programme, the young participants embarked on an activity to evaluate their usual walk to school and brainstormed ways to enhance it further.

At Hirst Wood Nursery, the children’s insights were particularly noteworthy, leading them to advocate for several crucial changes to their daily routes. The kids suggested initiatives such as re-painting road signs, reducing pavement parking, improving pavement conditions, and the creation of new ‘park and stride’ sites, aimed at alleviating school gate congestion.

In a significant move, the children’s valuable recommendations will now play a pivotal role in shaping broader consultations conducted by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The insights gathered from these consultations will help justify future investments in improving travel and transport in Saltaire, ultimately benefiting the entire community.

The Little Feet programme tackles two pressing issues head-on: lack of physical activity among children and the exposure to poor air quality due to school gate congestion. Startling statistics show that nine out of 10 children between the ages of two and four do not meet the recommended daily activity levels. Furthermore, school gate congestion often results in subpar air quality in the vicinity, impacting the health and well-being of students and residents alike. By promoting active and eco-friendly school commutes, the initiative aims to address these concerns and foster healthier habits among families.

The success of the Little Feet programme is attributed to a successful launch event that took place at Lapage Primary School in Barkerend, Bradford. The event, which drew considerable attention and enthusiasm from the community, was held in January and set the stage for the impressive wave of walking activity currently sweeping across West Yorkshire.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said; “Walking to school should be every child’s right. The benefits include enjoying clean air, exercise, and precious time with a loved one while protecting our climate for the future.

“This pioneering programme is just one of the ways we’re helping make West Yorkshire a brighter, better-connected place for people to live, work and raise a family.”

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets said; “It’s fantastic to have so many children taking part in Little Feet and enjoying all the health and happiness benefits that come from walking to school.

“We believe it’s really important that the people who use our streets have their say on how they can be improved, so it’s great that pupils at Hirst Wood Nursery School were able to share their thoughts on what could make their walk to school better.”

Sameera Khan, Parent Engagement Officer, Dixons Marchbank Primary School, said; “Little Feet is a fantastic initiative which has inspired our children to walk to school more often.

“The benefits of walking positively impact on our health and mental well-being as well as raising awareness of the world around us.”

Sam Renwick, Assistant Headteacher, Hirst Wood Nursery School, said; “We would highly recommend Little Feet for Early Years settings. The project provided support to encourage our families to walk to school wherever possible.

“During the school audit walk, the children identified both positive and negative aspects of our immediate environment, particularly noticing the problem of pavement parking around the school. The children have continued to tell staff about their walks to nursery.”

Little Feet is funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and delivered by partner organisation Living Streets.