Best foot forward for school

By John Lewis

A renewed push encouraging children to walk, ride or scoot to school is taking place this month, with animal prints and distance markers installed on pavements near schools.

VicHealth has increased funding to local governments across Victoria to help promote the Walk to School Program and the benefits of developing healthy exercise routines.

Greater Shepparton City Council said it had provided safe walking maps and placed animal footprints and distance markers around 13 primary schools in Shepparton and surrounding towns to encourage students and families to walk to school.

At Mooroopna Primary School, Year 6 teacher Zoe Albrecht said out of a class of 24, she estimated only about 10 students walked or rode to school.

Ms Albrecht supported the Walk to School program.

“It's a fantastic initiative,” she said. "It's a safe way to get that incidental exercise and it doesn't cost anything.”

Year 6 student Milli Lundberg said she walked about 1.5km three times a week from her home near Mooroopna Secondary College with her younger sister Sophie.

“It's good exercise — I much prefer the walk early in the morning when our brains are fresh,” she said. "In the afternoon it can get a bit hot.”

School principal Steve Rogers said the numbers of students walking or riding to school had declined over the years.

He said out of the school's 230 students only two or three regularly rode bikes or scooters. He said in the upper school about 40 per cent would walk to school.

He said traffic management could play an important part in making the streets safer for more children to walk to school.

“We would love there to be changes to this part of town to make it safer to walk to school,” he said. "We would support ways of redirecting through traffic away from residential streets.”

Council director community Kaye Thomson said parents could help by making it easier for their children to walk or ride to school.

“If you can't walk all the way, try parking the car a few blocks from school at the 500m distance marker and walk, ride or scoot the rest,” she said.