Mount Druitt Public School dons joggers for inaugural Walk to School Day

Students James and Hannah Collisson with mum Nicole Collisson and principal Michael Kelly.

Students, parents and staff from Mount Druitt Public School are set to trade car travel for walking shoes on November 29 as they prepare for the school’s inaugural Walk to School Day.

Mount Druitt Public School has made a firm commitment to promoting active travel, encouraging students and their families to ditch car drop-offs, in favour of walking, riding or using public transport.

Teachers have been working closely with Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Centre for Population Health to plan a range of activities aimed at increasing active travel to and from school, including parent road safety meetings, poster and sticker competitions for the kids and bike network mapping sessions.

Centre for Population Health deputy director Christine Newman said ditching short drive-to-school trips was key in getting more of the population, particularly children, walking at least 30 minutes every day.

“Overweight and obesity rates in kids in NSW aged five to 16 is about 22 per cent,” she said.

“Children are not engaged in enough physical activity and walking rates in the Blacktown Council area are very low; that’s why we’re thrilled to be able to work with Mount Druitt Public School to encourage its community to adopt travel methods that increase physical activity.”

WSLHD staffer Stephen Gammack with teacher Michael Day, mum Farzana Akhtar and daughter Roza.

Recent data shows 45 per cent of the Blacktown population are car dependent, with 18.8 per cent driving short distances – many of these to take children to school.

Ms Newman said just 7.3 per cent of people in the area (including children) do at least 30 minutes of walking each day, making the initiative critical to creating healthier lifestyles.

Mount Druitt Public School teacher Michael Day said a travel survey of children had highlighted the need for change.

“We found that about 59 per cent of all school journeys are occurring in the car, compared to 34 per cent walking,” he said.

“We knew we had to make a change to the travel behaviour of both parents and kids; we’ve held an information session for parents about road safety and we’ve also got kids involved by creating competitions for them to promote Walk to School day and come up with a name for future walking days.

“We’ve also created a range of interactive games and stories to engage the children and provide them with positive health messages about the benefits of active travel.

“We really want to be a leader in promoting active travel among schools so this has given us a space to trial ideas and see what works to really change those behaviours.”

Contact WSLHD’s Centre for Population Health promotion team on (02) 9840 3603 if you’d like to discuss ideas for an active travel plan for your school or community group.