SUNDERLAND played host to a regional event celebrating a year of encouraging kids to walk to school.
The Go Smarter campaign was launched across five local authorities in the area last year with £4.9million funding from the Department of Transport.
The aim of the scheme, which will carry on until March 2015, is to encourage families to leave the car at home when travelling to and from school and opt for walking, cycling and using public transport instead.
Delegates from the neighbouring local authorities, Newcastle, Gateshead, South and North Tyneside, met up at Sunderland Civic Centre to talk about the achievements of the campaign so far and talk about forthcoming projects.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “If we can encourage and enable more people to walk, cycle or use public transport to school then we reduce congestion on our roads, increase children and young people’s fitness and health and basically help improve our environment and communities along the way.
“Working in partnership with leading charities such as Sustrans and Living Streets we’re putting in place the infrastructure, the support, and perhaps most importantly, the willingness and enthusiasm of young people and their families, to make walking, cycling and using public transport more popular.
“A lot has already been achieved over the 12 months since the campaign was launched and hopefully we can build on that success as the campaign continues to develop.”
As part of the campaign schools were asked to give their views and opinions and were entered into a prize draw, which was won by Richard Avenue Primary School and Red House Academy.
Teacher Sharon Howard, from Richard Avenue Primary School, said: “We are encouraging children to make the choice to walk to school and are looking forward to all the activities the Schools Go Smarter programme can offer in the future.”
Isabella Johnston, nine, a pupil at the Hurstwood Road school, said: “It is important that more people walk to school to help reduce pollution.”
Classmate Aquib Bakth, 10, added: “I think people should use the car less, and exercise more.”
Loraine Humble, community manager at Red House Academy, said: “Our pupils have worked really hard on this and involving young people in sending out the message about the fitness, social and environmental benefits of walking to school will hopefully help increase the impact of this campaign.”
Kieron Brown, 15, a pupil at the Rutherglen Road school, said: “It’s great to walk to school with your mates. All you need to do is get up a little earlier and it’s also great exercise.”
Becky Longhorn, 15, added: “Most of my friends walk to school and it’s much better than getting there in the car.”