Safely back to school: new resources to ensure safe and healthy journeys to school
This month, children all over the world are going back to school. New guidance published by UNICEF and the Child Health Initiative provides useful information and actionable interventions for schools, policymakers and local authorities to ensure children travelling to school are kept safe during the COVID-19 pandemic while also addressing the risks of road traffic injury and air pollution.
These issues are all interlinked. Prioritising walking, cycling and scooting to school supports physical distancing. At the same time, it reduces traffic congestion around school gates, making school zones safer and improving air quality. Making it safer to walk, cycle, scoot, and use a wheelchair by installing safer infrastructure and reducing speeds can have long term benefits for the entire community.
Along with the launch of the Guidance document, the Child Health Initiative (CHI) revealed the results of a global YouGov survey that found almost three-quarters of people supported physical changes such as road closures, limiting traffic and reducing speeds to protect children worldwide, and that more than two-thirds of parents would change the journey to school for their child to walking and cycling as part of COVID-19 social distancing measures, but only if streets were safe.
For children who live further from school, taking the bus is sometimes the only option. School bus safety is therefore also an important element to consider. With this in mind, EASST has produced a series of resources, including new activities for our EASST Road Safety Education Pack, to promote school bus safety.
Using the UNICEF-CHI guidance, we have produced a brochure to be distributed amongst bus companies, schools, and homes with advice to make school bus journeys COVID-safe. We have also prepared a set of posters and flyers reminding drivers of vital road safety measures including slowing down around schools and looking out for children crossing before pulling out.
For kids, we have developed new age-appropriate activities to be included in our EASST Road Safety Education Pack advising children how to keep safe at bus stops and behave safely on school buses. These pages have already been translated into Georgian, where there are high numbers of rural children taking the bus to school, and where we are already working with bus companies to promote bus fleet safety. Over the next few months, these activities will be translated and incorporated into our wider Education work.
We believe that every child has the right to a safe and healthy journey to school. COVID-19 poses a new risk, but road safety has been an issue for decades with countless needless child casualties. Making roads safer for children and adolescents must be a central element of every country’s post-COVID recovery plans.