No matter where in the UK you may live, the school run is an almost unavoidable part of day-to-day life – parents safely seeing their children off into classrooms from outside the gates.

The routine isn’t without its detractors, however. Some point to increasing traffic and congestion as being an issue, but Professor John Ashton – the new president of the Faculty of Public Health – has another issue with parents driving their kids to school.

With childhood obesity continuing to be a problem across the nation, Professor Ashton is arguing that a simple fix has been staring parents in the face all along: Make your children walk.

“We’re used to this idea that our children are not going to be as well off as we have been. But I don’t think anybody has really expressed yet that they may not be as healthy either,” Ashton said in an interview quoted in the Daily Mail, just before taking up his new role.

“One of the things we should be doing is really strictly prohibiting cars stopping outside school to drop kids off but having drop-off points, if at all, a few hundred yards away so at least the children get to walk a quarter of a mile each day from the dropping off point.”

Ashton even suggested that changes to the way our towns and cities are laid out will need to be made unless we change our diets to contain healthier, less calorific foods.

“Here we’ve got more of an ecological crisis, where we’ve created a habitat for ourselves where people don’t live the way we used to live.

“We don’t expend 3,000 – 4,000 calories a day, we eat high density food, we’re not living in the way the human species evolved. We need to have places where we live that support healthy living, so we do walk for some distance every day, make it easier to take exercise, to cycle, to eat healthily.”

Ashton’s advice hasn’t been welcomed with open arms, however. Mumsnet’s chief executive, Justine Roberts, suggests that implementing such changes may be difficult for schools and parents alike.

“I suspect there will be a mixed reaction to this because people will find it quite hard to manage,” she said, as quoted in the Daily Mail.

Similarly, a petition on the Government’s e-petitions website calling to “ban the school run” – stating simply that Number 10 should “get people back on their feet, reduce carbon emissions, create healthier kids and stop clogging up our roads” – received just one signature before being rejected on the grounds of lacking a clear action plan.

Do you agree with the new Public Health chief’s plans? Would you be happy with your children walking to school? Do you think it would be practical? Let us know what you think below

                Picture from Fotolia

Leon Poultney


July 3, 2013