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Caithness News Bulletins May 2006

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Walk to School Week Ė Highland, 2006
Highland parents and carers are being encouraged to join the adventure of "Walk to School Week" and support this yearís theme of independence from Monday 22nd till Friday 26th May 2006.

By encouraging parents to walk to school with their children from a young age it enables youngsters to develop the necessary skills to make their own journeys in the future. This practise lets children learn many skills and experiences including: road and personal safety; meeting and greeting people; time and distance management; the feeling of the weather; and exploration of what's around the corner.

Parents are being encouraged to give their children empowerment Ė and encourage children to make decisions about and take responsibility for their journeys. Children can learn what to wear for the journey; what day to walk; where and when to cross roads; which way to walk; and push the button at crossing lights.

Lisa MacKellaich, Highland Councilís Road Safety Officer said: "Recent evidence is clear that any way in which we can increase childhood exercise should be welcomed and supported. Figures released by the national Walk to School Week campaign show that nearly 1 in 5 children play outside for less than one hour a week including at weekends.

"The really great thing about the Walk to School is that it develops a basic life skill, preparing children for the future and allows them to learn by experience. It empowers children and gives them the responsibility for making decisions on the journey to and from school. It develops their imagination and exploration skills and lets them enjoy the outside world. It promotes well-being and confidence and has proven mental and physical benefits.

"Generally it is not until children reach the age of 8 that they are considered mature enough to accept and understand the responsibility of walking to school on their own. Parents and carers should judge when is appropriate for their own child to walk to school safely unattended."

Ailsa Campbell, Highland Councilís School Travel Co-ordinator said: "Twenty years ago 80% of 7-8 year olds walked or cycled to school. Now that figure has fallen to just 9%. Obesity levels in the UK have grown by almost 400% in the past 25 years and childhood obesity has tripled in 20 years. The Walk to and from School can form a vital part of a childís daily exercise.

"We are delighted that over 90 schools in Highland are taking part in Walk to School Week this May and hope the children continue to choose walking or cycling as their form of transport to get to and from school following the week."

For further advice on walking to school see the website at www.walktoschool.co.uk  or contact: Lisa MacKellaich, Highland Councilís Road Safety Officer tel: (01463) 702690