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Let's make school travel a general election issue...

The general election is almost upon us. So we’ve outlined the national action we want to see to transform school run travel. We've sent this request to the cabinet parliamentary candidates for Transport & Education.. but we need your help to get more MP candidates on board.

Write to your local parliamentary candidates!

If you agree with our asks below, do send an email with them to your local MP candidates at their party email addresses here. We suggest writing a personal email to them about the local issues around the school run in your constituency. It could be a particularly clogged up road preventing you from getting to where you need to go. Or it could be that hundreds of children are walking past congested and dangerous roads on their way to school. Then ask them to commit to support national action to transform the school run and let them know you support the Solve the School Run manifesto below, by including it in the email. You can also refer to the attached letter we've written to the Education & Transport cabinet candidates.

Please do get in touch with us if you need any help at


Solve the School Run manifesto for school travel

Children are exposed to commuter traffic as they journey to school and then this is greatly exacerbated by traffic generated from parents driving their children to school. These school run journeys are estimated to increase the number of cars on the road at rush hour by 33%*. The school run is therefore the time when the highest number of people walking and wheeling meet the highest number of cars on the roads. This is an unacceptable situation for children and families that has persisted for decades. 

Rates of driving to school have not changed for the last 20 years. According to the Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey [NTS], the driving rates for primary pupils in England were 40% in 2022 and 41% in 2002.  For secondary pupils they are 25% and 26% respectively. Underpinning these stubborn driving rates are key issues in current school travel policy which we outline below in our manifesto for change. Please note the scope of the below relates to Non-SEND school travel.

1.Reduce the statutory walking distances to 1.5 miles under the age of 10, 3 miles over the age of 10.  

The statutory walking distances from school are currently 2 miles from home for a child under the age of 8 and 3 miles from home for a child over the age of 8.  These are the journey lengths at which point pupils become eligible for local authority school travel provision such as a school bus. These distances have not changed since the 1940’s, and do not take into account that the percentage of families with two working parents has been steadily increasing and is now the most common family dynamic.  The NTS shows clearly that the longer the home-school travel distance, the higher the propensity for car use;  for primary age pupils the driving rate is 12% for trips under 1 mile in length and this rises to 78% for trips 1-2 miles in length. For many families walking an 8 year old child 3 miles to school and then making an onward journey to work is not compatible with their working day. The transport committee review in 2012 referred to the Danish school system as a model example of school travel; the reduced statutory walking distances that we have recommended here are in line with this model. 

2. Strengthen  the standards by which a road can be considered a “safe route” to school,  to  allow for children travelling to school independently.  

Existing school travel policy also provides for pupils where journeys to school cannot be walked in reasonable safety. In this instance local authority travel support is also provided e.g. a school bus.  However, the threshold for what constitutes a “safe” route is extremely low and moreover, specifically defines it as a safe route an adult can accompany pupils, with no specified expectation of when a pupil should be able to travel independently.  Additionally, we do not think that the safe routes standards now align with the latest guidance from Active Travel England on safe walking routes.  Safety is a key factor affecting the likelihood of parents allowing their children to walk to school independently or indeed wanting to walk to school themselves with their children.   We ask that the safe route standards within existing statutory guidance are significantly improved. 

3. Ensure that school travel policy addresses pupil sustainable travel requirements for pupils who do not attend their nearest state school. 

The conditions for which pupils can qualify for school travel provision from authorities  (living over 2 miles or more from school, or having an unsafe route), only apply to pupils attending their nearest state school.   However, within the education system in England, not all children attend their nearest school. There are private schools, faith schools and within the academy school system increasing choice for parents within the state sector.  A significant number of pupils attend a school other than their nearest state school, and precisely as a result of that choice have longer school runs where there is a higher propensity to drive. The current school travel policy does not align with the current education policy which allows for school choice.  We therefore suggest either that the conditions of local authority school travel provision extend to all pupils regardless of what school they attend, or that school travel policy stipulates that schools which select pupils on criteria other than pupil distance from school are required to meet school run driving rate targets by providing their own sustainable travel services for their pupils.  

The final ask below relates to the annual school census published by the Department of Education. 

4. Provide annual data on school travel which should be re-included in the annual school census and expanded to include independent schools.

Until 2011, the Department of Education school census recorded information from every state school on travel to school. However, this question was subsequently dropped and has not been re-instated since. Effective measurement & ongoing monitoring of school travel modes at a school level is critical for determining which sustainable travel interventions (e.g. school streets, cycle lanes) are effective in achieving modal shift and in what locations.  We also ask that this question in the school census be extended to include independent schools. Due to the non-catchment nature of admissions for these schools, pupils have longer school run journeys and so it is reasonable to assume they have higher driving rates (per the documented NTS trends). It is likely therefore that independent school pupils make up a disproportionate number of pupils driven to school and should be included in the school census to ensure a full data set. 

Reducing the numbers of pupils driven to school will have huge benefits to the climate through reduced emissions, it will have huge benefits to public health through improved air quality and road safety, and it will have huge benefits to the economy through reduced congestion on our roads. 

We hope parliamentary candidates and cabinet member candidates will commit to these suggested reforms that will, we believe,.... solve the school run.


The Solve the School Run Team

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Letters to shadow Education & Transport Minister candidates

Solve the School Run School Travel Manifesto_Transport 2024
Download PDF • 240KB

Solve the School Run School Travel Manifesto 2024_Education
Download PDF • 241KB


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