Cheshire East Council is set to take steps to boost walking to school, help tackle pupil obesity and deliver greater fairness – as well as savings to local taxpayers.
The Cabinet will be asked to decide (Tuesday June 14) that five walking routes to local schools are now safe to be used by pupils – and that free school transport will be withdrawn for some pupils from April 2017.
It follows a review of routes that takes into account the significant improvements to the highways, footpaths and public rights of way – including walking routes to schools – in recent years.
Cabinet is also set to agree to use £150,000 from the government’s Local Transport Plan Fund to improve further routes to schools over the next four years, bringing them up to standard and enabling more youngsters to walk to school.
It means the Council is applying its own policies consistently and fairly by providing free transport only to those who are eligible.
The moves would deliver potential Council savings of £495,000 by 2019.
Under the Council’s ‘Available Walking Routes’ policy, free transport is provided to primary pupils who would have to walk two miles or more to school and to secondary school pupils who would have to walk three miles or more. This will be unaffected.
However, Councils are also required by law to provide free travel where a pupil lives within the statutory walking distance to school but does not have a route available that can be walked in reasonable safety.
A total of 1,152 Cheshire East students are currently receiving home-to-school transport because no walking route is available – which represents 35 per cent of children entitled to transport provision. This compares with figure of 26.5 per cent in Cheshire West and Chester and just 10 per cent in Staffordshire.
The Council’s review of walking routes is set to affect, in the first phase, the following five schools: Tytherington; Poynton High, Brine Leas, Wheelock Primary; and Malbank. About 380 pupils will be affected by the proposed change.
Councillor George Hayes, deputy portfolio holder for children and families said: “As a ‘Residents First’ council – we have a duty to treat people fairly and apply our rules consistently. This decision is about fairly applying an existing policy, now that these walking routes have been made available for safe use.
“There are also clear health benefits from getting more of our young people to take regular daily exercise by walking. A study in 2015 revealed that a staggering 28 per cent of year six children in Cheshire East were overweight or obese
“In order to ensure that parents and schools are aware of these changes, we have already communicated with the relevant local ward members and headteachers and contact will be made directly with those parents who will be impacted by this decision. All of this is happening well in advance of the April 1, 2017 implementation date.”
For further information on available walking routes to school, including frequently asked questions visit www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/availablewalkingroutes