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School run or school bus? It's all a question of class divide...

Parents in traditionally well-off areas are more likely to take their children by car

Oliver Wright,Katey Pigden
Friday 07 January 2011 01:00 GMT

It's official: the country's laziest (or certainly most cosseted) children live in Windsor.

Official figures reveal that more children go to school by car in the Royal borough than in any part of England.

Nearly half are driven to lessons while just one in 20 cycles and one in 10 take a bus or train. In contrast children in Portsmouth and the Isles of Scilly are the most energetic. Around 70 per cent of them walk to school and one in five cycles. The figures, released by the Department of Transport, also dispel the myth of so-called Chelsea tractors ferrying young Henrys and Henriettas to private schools.

Well-off parts of London like Kensington, Westminster and Fulham have some of the lowest car use in the country – with less than one-in-10 children getting to lessons by vehicle.

It's also good news for the Olympics: In Newham, the London borough where the games will be held in 2012, 70 per cent of children walk every day.

The figures detail the percentage of school-age children who walk, cycle, take the car or public transport to school. Nationally it shows that around one in four children are taken to school by car. One in five get there by public transport, around half walk, while just two per cent on average are allowed to cycle.

It comes on the same day a study was published suggesting that children are less likely to walk to school as income and parental education increase. This would appear to tally with the new figures. Richer parts of the country such as Barnet, Surrey and Bath all had low levels of walking, while relatively deprived areas of the country such as Hull, Barking and Luton have high levels of walking.

However experts have cautioned that the availability of convenient public transport is also a key factor in determining the number of pupils who walk to school.

Recent medical research has found that walking to school in the morning can reduce stress in children during the school day. A one-mile walk was found to curb increases in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life.

Children who were given a simulated ride to school experienced a rise in blood pressure three times higher than those who took a simulated walk when taking an exam later in the day.

Last night councillors in Windsor appeared unconcerned about their poor showing in the tables. Colin Rayner, Cabinet member for Highways and Streetcare, said: "This just another unnecessary report showing meaningless statistics. We believe in giving our residents choice. Parents will take their children to school in the way they feel is the safest."

In Portsmouth, Cllr Terry Hall, Cabinet Member for Education said: ""We're not surprised that so many children walk to school in Portsmouth. Walking is a safe and healthy option and we're fortunate to have accessible routes, supported by crossing patrols, and many schools within easy reach.

"There have been many successful schemes in the city aimed at getting children more active, and the high number of children making their way to school on foot shows we're on the right path."

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Living Streets – which runs the Walk to School initiative – said it was a concern just how much regional difference there was.

"These statistics show a huge variation in children's walking levels across the country," he said. "Local authorities like Portsmouth show how much can be achieved.

"Schools that have adopted the Walk Once a Week scheme report levels of walking at 10 percentage points higher than the average."

Where the most children are driven to school...

1. Windsor and Maidenhead

2. Blackburn

3. St Helens

4. Barnet

5. Warrington

6. Bournemouth

7. Telford and Wrekin

8. Surrey

9. Slough

10. Dudley

... and where most walk

1. Portsmouth

2. Isles of Scilly

3. Newham

4. City of London

5. Tower Hamlets

6. Kingston-upon-Hull

7. Waltham Forest

8. Southampton

9. Barking and Dagenham

10. Luton

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