Leichhardt State School students and Principal Michelle Hamlin do a weekly ‘walking school bus’.
Many of us remember walking or riding to school. It was the norm in the not-too-distant past.
With more school travel done by car and traffic congestion a growing problem, there is a renewed push to make sure the next generation also get to experience the many benefits – and create lifelong memories – of walking or riding to school.
“I used to walk to high school. I was only a few kilometres away. It was downhill to get to school, and uphill to get home.

It was interesting because a primary school friend who went to a different high school, he would catch the bus to Ipswich High and we would walk home together. We played a bit of catch-up during those times and talked politics, funnily enough.”

 

Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli

 

Council’s Healthy Active School Travel (HAST) program has been revamped to provide new incentives for schools, parents and students to find ways other than a car to get to and from school.

HAST program is aimed at improving children’s health by encouraging students to walk, ride a scooter or bicycle, or take public transport, through information, education and activities.

Works, Parks and Sport Committee Chairperson Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said the goal is for council, schools and parents to work together to create long-term change.

“The benefits flow beyond the program. We have healthier kids, which increases their ability to concentrate and learn, and less reliance on cars for school runs, which helps reduce traffic congestion at schools,” he said.

HAST program will have a funding incentive worth a total of $6000 for the best performing schools each year. Winning categories include highest participation rates for the year, most improved school for the year and most innovative HAST initiative.

The rewards will provide funding toward approved active travel incentives such as a school bike cage, the purchase of equipment for the health and physical education program, or even teacher professional development in the active transport realm.

There are limited positions available for schools to join the 2018 program. Schools can contact council’s Active Transport Officer on 3810 7682.

“One memorable day was the sense of pride I had the first day I was allowed to ride to school and my parents trusted me to do that.

Probably my favourite memories though – if it was raining on the way home I could ride through every muddy puddle and not get in trouble.”

 

Greg Noble, Principal Walloon State School
Walloon State School has been involved in the HAST program for about a year, and recently held their third ‘ride or walk to school’ day. The school community met at the Henry Lawson Bicentennial Park and travelled to school together.

Principal Greg Noble said there were many benefits.

“This is a two-prong approach; if you are travelling on a footpath, how do you do it safely; and it might encourage families to drop the car and use the infrastructure to ride or walk,” he said.

 The HAST program also supports the school’s values, such as a strong focus on relationships and serving the community. Mr Noble said it was also providing children a skill for life.

“I’ve been back on the bike seriously for a year or so. The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is fabulous. I’ve lost about 60kg, and this is how – walking or riding. A little bit every day, that’s how you look after yourself.”

“(When I was a child) you didn’t have any choice – you walked to school. The whole street did. Mums often didn’t have cars.

You would pack your lunch and a raincoat, and off you went to school. It was such a social thing, children would walk five kilometres because you enjoyed walking with your friends.”

 

Michelle Hamlin, Principal Leichhardt State School
Leichhardt State School has been involved with the HAST program for several years. One of the main initiatives is a ‘walking school bus’ on Mondays.

There are two different start points, and as well as health and fitness benefits Principal Michelle Hamlin said the walking school bus had created connections with the local residents and businesses.

“We have a lot of parents come along. It’s nice relationship building. The children will hold your hand and tell you what they did on the weekend,” she said.

Ms Hamlin said a benefit of the HAST program was being able to create initiatives that worked for the individual school community.

Walloon State School students, Principal Greg Noble and Councillor David Pahlke at the school’s recent ‘ride or walk to school’ day.

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