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Interview: Portercroft School, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Portercroft School recently gained a STARS Outanding Travel Plan accreditation.

We spoke with Deputy Headteacher, Sarah Holman, and Teaching Assistant, Paula Edwards formerly of Sheffield City Council.

Why did you get involved in travel plans in the first place? What was your first motivator?

Sarah said: ‘As a school we took on the 10-day active travel activities. Through that we won the opportunity to have a juggler come to the school and engage with the children. All our children were so excited, that was the starting point. It was the initial springboard to us then becoming more enthusiastic about the active travel process because there was a genuine reward, and the children could see it.

We are on a street with a dead-end and have a massive student population on our surrounding streets. People were using our road as a place to reverse, park or to quickly speed down and turn around and it was dangerous. As a school we decided that we would like to address the situation.

Paula used to come into our school and create activities like ‘Wheelie Wednesdays’ or ‘Learn to Bike’ so there were loads of practical activities going on. And the more we have done, the more involved parents have become as well. They’ve got on board, and they understand the importance.

Paula said: ‘In 2021 the curriculum was re-written to encompass the United Nations sustainability goals and our whole curriculum is about sustainability and diversity and inclusion and global citizenship.

For us active travel forms one part of the whole. So, we don’t do active travel planning by itself.

The children are used to using their feet. They walk about two or three times a term to the library. They walk to the swimming pool, to church and, the theatre. We are part of the Sheffield Children’s conference, the climate change event, which they walk to. Whever possible we encourage active travel in all areas of life.

It’s especially important because our children are from 26 or 27 different cultural heritages. To reach a wide audience we keep all our literature simple so that we can get buy in from all the parents, which is at times hard because lots of our parents are taxi drivers! We’ve undertaken parent surveys to find out what parents want and, what the other issues are for them. We have listened to them and because they have been listened to, they are working with us, and they do actually support us.’

Who was involved in the development of your travel plan?

Sarah said: ‘Initially when we first started, it was me, but now the travel plan involves everybody – including Governors and Senior Leadership Teams. Paula is the coordinator for the School Council and the Eco Team.

What’s left to do for your school? What’s next on the list?

We recently became a permanent School Street. We have done other initiatives like Beat the Streets as well to encourage children to do more active travel in the holidays. We’re hoping to have a teachers shed to lock up our own bikes and promote this more. We’re also reissuing some of the older campaigns to a new cohort of pupils and parents this year, so making sure they know about the range of initiatives.  Things like our ‘5-minute walk zone’ and our active travel information about travelling to school. These are displayed all the time in our main reception office area.

What advice would you give to other schools about getting accredited being part of Modeshift.

It’s all about getting the children involved and getting them to understand, enjoy and see the reason and the purpose rather than it just be a competition. I would say look at the curriculum and look at the books and the literature that is out there that can support an ecofriendly active travel way of walking to school or being good citizens.

And promoting the bike, wheeling, and scootering to school, not just on those 10-day active travel days, but all the time.

Today I was looking down the road and because of the School Street, there were loads of children. They were on their scooters or on their bikes and now we’ve got parents who are bringing their children on the back of their bikes too.’

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