In recent years, the UK government has been working to encourage more children to actively commute to school by foot or by bicycle, after it was reported that the percentage of primary school children who walk to school fell from 70% to 51% within a single generation.

Walking to school can have many advantages for children, their parents and their communities, so Clarks put together a list of 10 benefits of walking for school children and parents.

However, there are numerous factors that can prevent children and their parents from doing so, including distance and previous research has suggested that any walking distance to school that increases beyond 1.5 miles begins to seriously decrease the likelihood of a child walking to school.

Therefore Clarks also calculated which of Britain’s local authorities come closest to meeting these optimal distances between secondary schools as an indication of where distances may be too far for local school commutes, and we have also explored what the barriers and the benefits are behind walking instead of driving on the school run.

Why 1.5 and 3 miles?

In 2014, the UK\’s Department for Education set 3 miles as a statutory, maximum walking distance for secondary school kids before advising that free public transport should be offered to them by local authorities. 

However, a study of 4,013 adolescents found that the majority of them who do walk to school also live within 1.5 miles of their school and that increasing this commute distance by even one mile would decrease the likelihood of a secondary school pupil walking to school by as much as 78%.

Key findings

  • Clarks has shared 10 benefits of walking to school for parents and their kids.
  • It also found that secondary schools in London have the most frequent optimal distances for walking to school — one school is within 3 miles of another school 72% of the time and 33% of the time when lowering the distance to 1.5 miles, which is more frequent than any other region in Britain.
  • Scotland has the least frequent optimal distances for walking to school with one school being within 3 miles of another 25% of the time and just 9% of the time when lowering it to the more optimal walking distance of 1.5 miles. 
  1. You’ll get lots of exercise – Walking to school is an easy way of meeting the government recommendation for children and adolescents to get at least an hour of exercise a day. Even walking for 20 minutes has benefits for your overall physical and mental health. Walking every day will instil lifelong healthy habits in your child as they grow up.
  2. It will save you money – Walking to school is free! Not taking the car on the school run can save you a fortune on fuel, maintenance, and parking costs. Skipping public transport for a short journey will save you lots of money as well. A comfortable pair of  girls school shoes  or  boys school shoes  is the only investment you’ll need to make.
  3. It’s better for the planet – Skipping the school run by car is better for the environment. Driving produces carbon emissions, making walking a more eco-friendly way of getting to school. Walking also means that you’re not adding to harmful noise pollution caused by cars.
  4. There’s less exposure to pollution – According to a study carried out in Denmark(opens in a new tab), sitting in a car actually exposes you to more harmful emissions than if you were cycling or walking. Walking to school also reduces your exposure to noise pollution caused by loud traffic, proving a better option for looking after your hearing.
  5. It\’s the best way to start a day of learning – According to Sustrans, a charity that promotes walking and cycling,  teachers report that pupils who walk to school arrive more (opens in a new tab) than those who use other methods of transportation. Parents and caregivers will reap the benefits of an energising morning walk, too.
  6. Your child will develop key skills – Walking with your child to school is a great way of helping them learn more about road safety and how to navigate the local area. This will help them develop independence and key decision-making skills. A comfortable pair of  school shoes  will help them on their way.
  7. You’ll learn more about where you live – Walking to and from school is a great way to learn more about your local area. Grab a pair of adventure-ready  school trainers  and use the walk to discover new routes and sights, which will add some excitement to the morning routine.
  8. It can improve your mental health – Walking to school is one way of boosting your endorphins and making you feel more positive at the beginning of the day. That boost of endorphins will also lower your stress levels and help you feel more relaxed.
  9. There’s more time for bonding – An energising walk to school is a great opportunity for bonding with your kids and learning more about their day. Making friends en route will increase your child’s confidence and you’ll both learn more about the school community as well.
  10. It provides an academic and creative boost – Several studies have shown that walking to school can boost a child’s academic performance more than any other mode of transportation. Research has shown that  walking outside encourages creative thinking as well.