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WOW initiative unites school and instils healthy habits

SPONSORED: A walking initiative that brought a whole school together, reduced congestion at the school gates and instilled sustainable habits

Posted by Fiona Cowan | June 14, 2019 | Sustainability

West Byfleet Junior School had received complaints from parents regarding lack of parking around the school gates which led to concerns around safety for pupils at key drop-off and pick-up times of the day. The school had considered different options to reduce the number of cars stopping in front of the school gates, but nothing had done the trick, until one teacher, Ms Leafe introduced WOW – the year-round walk to school challenge.

WOW is a well-established and effective behaviour-change initiative that encourages pupils to travel actively and sustainably to school by rewarding them with a monthly badge. WOW is pupil-led, allowing children to self-report how they get to school every day using the interactive WOW Travel Tracker. If they travel sustainably (walk, cycle or scoot) once a week for a month, they get rewarded with a badge.

The scheme, created by Living Streets – the UK charity for everyday walking – is now their flagship walk to school challenge, with over 2,000 schools taking part each year across the UK.

It's simple to set up and run and children love talking part. Each year, the 11 WOW badges are designed by pupils and follow a new WOW theme. On average, WOW schools see a 30% reduction in cars pulling up at the school gate and a 23% increase in walking rates.

West Byfleet Junior School introduced WOW in October 2018. Before starting WOW, around 50% of pupils and families were travelling to school by foot, either all or part of the way, but they wanted to encourage more sustainable methods of travel to dovetail with the school’s goals of being more environmentally aware, as well as promoting health and wellbeing for pupils.

Since the launch of WOW, 80% of pupils have engaged with the scheme, and now 90% of them travel sustainably and actively to school.

Ms Val Leafe, teacher at West Byfleet Junior School, said:

When children arrive in the morning, they know how to use the WOW Travel Tracker and they do so independently. There’s a real buzz about it and they all talk about how they travelled into school. The children also talk about wanting to make the planet better and WOW is a great way to do it. It allows them to not just improve their local environment, but also the whole world. Pupils get very passionate about it!

Living Street has created WOW with a focus on sustainability. All the WOW badges are made from yoghurt-pot material off-cuts that were otherwise destined for landfill and are produced locally in Cornwall to reduce carbon footprint. The badges arrive to schools in 100% biodegradable packaging. Nonetheless, Living Streets has also already turned 80,000 unused WOW badges into brand new rulers for classrooms, which can be purchased in their shop along with all other WOW resources for the year.

Doing WOW allowed West Byfleet Junior School to conduct quite a few assemblies about travelling sustainably to school. It brought the whole school together (pupils and teachers) providing a common focus for everyone. The children love the opportunity of collecting the badges at the end of the month – they really cherish the badges when they receive them, says Mr Leafe.

West Byfleet Junior School are hoping they can surpass 90% of those engaged pupils travelling actively to school by the time the new school year starts.

With the end of the school year just around the corner, now is the perfect time to think about how to invest positively in the future of your pupils. WOW is an initiative that helps instil good habits for life and is available to buy now for 2019/20. Head to Living Streets’ shop, enter the number of pupils at your school to receive a quote and the exact number of badges you need to run WOW without producing waste. WOW is only around £2 per pupil for a whole year and cost for the scheme can be covered using only a fraction of you school’s PE and Sport Premium funding.

What are you waiting for? Join this national movement of walking children now.



Simply fill in your details on this form to receive a FREE FAMILY WALK TO SCHOOL KIT to engage with families and reduce congestion around the school gates.

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