Get more active during Walk to School Week

Get more active during Walk to School Week

This week (15-19 May) is Walk to School Week and the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging everyone to get more active by leaving the car at home and walking the school run.

Statistics show just over three-fifths (61%) of primary school pupils are driven to or from school by car, while less than a third – only 29% – walk. For post primary, 30% of pupils are driven by car and 18% walk.

Supporting the PHA’s message during Walk to School Week, Kevin McArevey, Principal at Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School in Belfast, said: “Ensuring that children are active every day is important not just to their physical health but it also can help benefit their education.

“Being more active and having a healthy diet can help lift your mood and improve concentration when in class and that’s why we’re supporting the Public Health Agency’s call during Walk to School Week to make the school run on foot.

“Our school is in an area where many of our pupils live nearby and we’d encourage parents, who are able, to make walking to school part of their daily routine with their children.”

Being physically active helps to build strong bones, muscles and a healthy heart, supports the development of social skills, and encourages a sense of wellbeing.

Children over the age of five years need to take part in moderate to vigorous intensity activities for at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours, every day. This can be broken up into small chunks of at least 10 minutes throughout the day – it all adds up.

The PHA, along with the Department for Infrastructure, funds the Active Schools Travel programme. The programme, delivered by Sustrans, encourages and supports pupils at 250 schools to walk, cycle or scoot to school rather than taking a lift in the car with their parents. The programme now also incorporates the Daily Mile, where pupils walk a mile together during the school day.

Colette Brolly, the PHA lead on physical activity, said: “It’s important that children are introduced to a culture of being active from an early age as it is something that will stay with them and benefit them throughout their lives.

“The great thing about walking is that it is simple and easy to do. It’s something that can be built in to your everyday routine and there’s no better way to get started than walking to school with your kids.

“Walk to School Week gives us all the opportunity to get active and it’s not something that’s just for kids. Make this a family experience and walk with your children to school. It won’t feel like exercise at all and you and your children will get to spend that special time together, as well as becoming more active.”

For adults, walking at a brisk pace can make you feel good and reduce anxiety, can help you sleep better, and can reduce blood pressure, and with 65% of men and 57% of women being overweight or obese in Northern Ireland, walking to school with your children can also help you manage your weight.

For further information on the benefits of walking and tips and hints to get started visit the PHA’s website


Notes to editors:

  • Statistics on travel to and from school 2015/16 can be found on the Department for Infrastructure website –
  • Among post primary pupils, almost half (49%) travelled to/from school by bus as their main mode of transport and a further three tenths (30%) were driven by car. Just under a fifth (18%) of pupils walked to/from school while a small proportion took the train (1%). There has been no real change since 2014/15 (bus; 48%, car; 30%, walking; 19%, train; 1%).
  • More than half (55%) of primary school pupils lived 0-1 mile from their school compared to just under a quarter (23%) of post primary school pupils.  A similar proportion of primary and post primary pupils (26% and 22%) lived within 2–3 miles.
  • Among primary school pupils, just over three fifths (61%) were driven to/from school by car and less than a third (29%) usually walked to/from school. One in 12 (8%) pupils travelled to/from school by bus, while no pupils cycled or took the train as their main mode of transport to and from school. These figures are around the same as in 2014/15 (car; 61%, walking; 29%, bus; 9%, bicycle; 1%, train; 0%).
  • In contrast, more than half (55%) of post primary school pupils lived more than 4 miles from their school compared to 19% of primary school pupils.