You know what it's like at the school gates, dicing with death trying to squeeze between the illegally parked cars (not yours of course!), dashing to drop them off and get to work on time, only to find you've been blocked in, leaving you seething with frustration before the day has even started. Surely that in itself is enough to get you considering a re-think on the school run?
There are untold benefits to setting your alarm clock half an hour earlier. Childhood obesity is rarely out of the headlines these days. One of the simplest, cheapest and most basic forms of exercise, as we all know, is walking. 30 minutes a day makes an immense difference to everybody's health and fitness. And the benefits of getting out in the fresh air... is it so fresh, with all those cars pumping out fumes? The school run is responsible for a massive amount of those fumes, so again, you can help do your bit for the environment, and your family's health.
Perhaps more importantly, just how much time do we get to spend with our children these days? Not as much as we'd like for most of us, and certainly not time when we can talk to them about the day ahead, run through their spellings one last time, and importantly, teach them about road safety. So many children's walking experience is limited to going from the front door to the car door that they think, Stop, Look, Listen is the latest One Direction song.
Southend Council's Road Safety Team – joined of course by the Borough's Road Safety Mascot Ziggy the cat – is presenting assemblies at 21 local schools to promote the campaign. Spreading the road safety messages of Stop, Look, Listen, find a safe place to cross, and Ziggy's biggest bug-bear – DON'T park on the zig zags, the Road Safety Team offer safety training to all schools throughout the year. A visit to the Council website at www.southend.gov.uk will provide a host of ideas and resources to encourage families to take the healthier, safer school run option. You can also find a list of the schools currently taking part in the campaign.
Obviously for some it's just not possible to make the journey on foot, either because of time or distance restrictions. It is still possible to compromise however. Parking the car ten minutes away from the school gates will get you that extra exercise and ease the congestion outside the school - not to mention solving your parking problem! Getting together with other parents and organising a 'walking bus' scheme means that a roster system could be worked out to suit everyone, or just taking the walk in turns with a neighbour can halve the 'effort' on your part.
The Living Streets Walk to School campaign is dedicated to encouraging all parents and children to make walking to school and normal part of their daily routine, although interestingly the WoW Scheme (walk once a week) is their most popular. This perhaps proves that even the busiest households can schedule at least one walk to school a week (and maybe a bit more when the weather's good!) More help and advice can be found on www.walktoschool.org.uk
With a little bit of imagination and a smidge of enthusiasm walking to school can actually become a high point of the day. Think in advance of simple games you can play whilst walking, from who can spot the most red cars to learning the names of the trees and flowers or getting all the way there without saying yes or no. And of course, if you have a dog you can kill two birds with one stone!