It seems the Ruddington Walking Bus – which launched as a permanent, daily service between Ruddington’s two schools last September – is proving a big hit with parents, pupils and staff.
After over a year of planning, and a successful trial in June last year, the Walking Bus between James Peacock Infant and Nursery School in Manor Park and St Peter’s C of E Junior School on Ashworth Avenue now takes children, chaperoned by adults, on a daily walk to their school along a set route – in much the same way a school bus might drive them there.
LIKE a traditional bus, Walking Buses have not only a fixed route but also designated ‘bus stops’ and ‘pick up times’ at which they collect the youngsters. UNLIKE a traditional bus – or more likely the private cars which might otherwise transport them – Walking Buses alleviate traffic congestion, pollution and parking issues and give children part of their recommended daily exercise. They also provide a social opportunity for pupils, parents, staff and other volunteers, whilst the kids gain pedestrian and safety awareness skills – becoming gradually more independent in a safer environment.
Organiser Laura Ratcliffe of Ruddington Mums points out: “It also frees up about half an hour of a parent’s or carer’s time in the morning – basically giving them FREE childcare from about 8.25am! We’ve been getting between 10 and 16 pupils each day, but we’d like even more children to take part – though that might mean more volunteers on the rota. We need one adult for every 8 pupils – so a minimum of two per day at the moment. We often have four – and it’s nice to have more adults around in case someone’s ill.”
New headteacher Michael Bradley, who took over at St Peter’s School after Christmas, is full of praise for the Ruddington Walking Bus: “This is a fantastic initiative that not only helps contribute to reducing the amount of cars on our roads but also promotes exercise for our children with the added benefit of making the morning school run much less stressful for us parents. It relies on the efforts of Laura and seventeen regular volunteers who do a sterling job and are examples of what makes Ruddington such as strong community.” Mr Bradley adds: “On behalf of St Peter’s I would like to say a big thank you to all involved.”
To enable more children to ‘catch’ the Walking Bus, and also existing volunteers to lessen their commitments, should they wish, Laura is now looking for more adults for her rota next half term: “You don’t have to be a parent. Maybe you’re retired and looking for a reason for a daily walk? All you need is to be DBS checked by the school, attend some safety briefings and then commit to whatever time you can spare.”
Ruddington Walking Bus takes bookings every school day morning and operates come rain or shine. Pupils can book onto it every day, or just selected days, as required. After gathering the ‘passengers’ together, it sets off from the meeting point outside the front of James Peacock School at 8.35am and ends up at the ‘Basecamp’ bus stop at St Peter’s School in plenty of time for children to join their classmates in the playground before starting the school day.
“I’m also very happy to pass on information and packs to other schools elsewhere who might want to start their own Walking Bus” says Laura. “We’ve done all the groundwork – so could probably save them about six months in time getting theirs off the ground!”
You can contact Laura Ratcliffe and her team for more information via firstname.lastname@example.org.