SCHOOL Streets could soon be coming to Reading as part of a new Council initiative to help children return to the classroom safely in September.
With thousands of pupils shortly to resume journeys for the start of the new academic year, Reading Borough Council is inviting schools and colleges across the borough to apply to create a School Street outside their buildings.
A School Street is a road outside a school with a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at busy school drop-off and pick-up times. The restriction applies to all school traffic and all through traffic. The result is a safer, healthier and more pleasant environment for everyone. School Streets also provide more space for parents and pupils to adhere to social distancing measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Schools interested in implementing a School Street can download information and an application pack from www.reading.gov.uk/schoolstreets.
Reading’s School Street initiative is funded through a successful recent bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) who awarded the Council £150,000 to support activities to encourage sustainable school trips and enable schools and colleges to re-open safely in September.
The funding pot would also be used to develop an interactive map and web portal where all information on sustainable transport options for each individual school or college could be found in an easy user friendly environment. The portal will give pupils and parents a range of up-to-date information regarding the travel options including walking and cycling links, the latest on bus options, suggestions for ‘park and stride’ locations and general tips and advice. Subsequent to this initial stage, the scope of the web map could then be expanded to include major employers and institutions within the borough. The web portal address will be widely publicised and shared with schools across the borough when complete.
The Council has also been awarded a further £116,336 to support improvements to school bus services for the start of term in September. The bid follows work to identify potential gaps in capacity on the school bus network. An enhanced school bus network is now being developed alongside Council-owned Reading Buses. Up to date bus information will be made available on the new interactive map and web portal, as well Reading Buses’ own website, so that parents and pupils can make an informed choice on how they travel to school.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
Many thousands of new journeys will be created when schools return in September. That provides a considerable challenge in light of the understandable restrictions which continue on public transport. Local schools or colleges are now being given the opportunity to create School Streets which will not only make travel to schools safer and allow for social distancing, but also create a healthier and more pleasant local environment for everyone.”
Ashley Pearce, the Council’s Lead Member for Education, said:
“There is understandable anxiety among some parents and pupil about returning to school after a long period away and with restrictions continuing, but as a Council we are moving to try to make it as easy as possible. I would advise schools and colleges across Reading to give close consideration to creating a School Street outside their buildings, and parents and pupils to make full use of the new web portal when it is operational, which will collate all the up to date information on sustainable travel options for each individual school across Reading.”
Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said:
“Schools work incredibly hard to provide a safe environment for their pupils and it is essential that young people are also safe as they travel to and from school. We are working closely with Headteachers, Reading Borough Council and Reading Buses on travel options with a greater emphasis on walking and cycling and the development of School Streets. I am encouraged that there has already been some interest shown in this exciting initiative.
“We are delighted this Government funding will allow us to help develop schemes which will not only benefit the health of our young people but also the local environment.”
Both the School Streets and web portal projects sit alongside the Council’s Active Travel initiatives already operational, or being developed, which include both segregated and advisory cycle lanes and changes to the town centre to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists whilst recognising the severe restrictions on the capacity of local public transport at this time. Details of these schemes can be found at www.reading.gov.uk/activetravel.
Notes to Editors:
Brighter Futures for Children is a not-for-profit company, wholly owned by, but independent of, Reading Borough Council. It delivers education, early help and children’s social care services in Reading.