Childhood obesity? Time to ditch the school run and bring back the school walk

The walk is always an important, private time. I’m not on the phone, or distracted by work. I’m not staring fixedly ahead, behind the wheel. It’s just me and them

Share

You see them clambering out of their parents’ vehicles every morning. Children so fat they are in adult-size shirts, whey-faced, sleepy. Its so obvious you wonder why someone has to spell it out. Being driven to school is bad for children. Yet the President of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor John Ashton, has felt it necessary to suggest banning the school “run”, in order to help tackle the crisis of our increasingly obese children.

The chunky kids are usually on time. We, however, are usually late. This is because we have walked 2km from our house to our primary school in Islington, which used to be local but now isn’t (since our move).

Never mind. Every day for the last 11 years, Mr Millard or myself have walked our four children to this destination. And back. We have no car. So we have no choice. Even if we did have a car I would still walk. Whatever the weather.

When they arrive, the children are rosy-cheeked, and ready for the day. They are also whip-thin; three miles every day does them good. If this sounds nauseatingly Enid Blyton, too bad. We have jokes, races, quizzes on capital cities. We rate people’s front gardens out of 10. We say hello to certain dogs and avoid certain cats. I sing. I am told to shut up. Yes, there is bickering and occasional parental shouting.

Yet the walk is always an important, private time. I’m not on the phone, or distracted by work. I’m not staring fixedly ahead, behind the wheel. It’s just me and them. And this is when they open up. They chat about everything. Their ambitions for secondary school. Their ambitions for the Sponsored Bounce. Their dislike of the recorder. Their love of (heaven help me) netball.

The school walk that thousands still manage every day is a crucial skein in the web of community. We greet our regulars; the lady artist, the Frenchman with his little daughter, the tall man with his Alaskan husky. We feel like we belong. It’s a bright mosaic which we would never see sweeping past in a car; it would be blown away in a gust of petrol fumes.

Yesterday I spoke about this on BBC London, and immediately got an email from a listener, whose demanding job had meant she could not walk her son to school. “I have lost touch with my son. Things could have been very different if I had been able to engage more fully with his school day. Those trips back and forth and the rows and chats are so important. One day those feet will be pointing in a different direction, away from you.”

If you can, dump the car and get walking. It’s a very special moment when that little hand slips into yours.

The store that stole Christmas

It’s Jingle Bells in London this week, with all the big stores immersed in Christmas “press previews”. Waitrose rolled out Heston Blumenthal, and two floors of achingly delicious food. Muji made Japanese minimalism the star. But the big daddy of them all was John Lewis. Christmas there is HUGE. The store takes 30 per cent of its annual profit in the six-week run-up. Surrounded by twinkling trees and glass baubles, MD Andy Street delivered a word-perfect speech to the assembled press. Who were told, in no uncertain way, that Never Knowingly Undersold is Numero Uno. John Lewis, he said, has “omni-channel leadership”. In both “bricks and clicks”. It is “Britain’s Leading Retailer”. It is, he said “the authoritative voice of Christmas”. Archbishop Welby, are you listening?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Katie Hopkins is a true Twitter villain

Felicity Morse
Adele performs onstage during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A  

Adele knows that privacy is the best gift a famous mother can give her child

Chloe Hamilton
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game