As there is only me, in the North West, it is a case of working out where we can have the most impact. I always find that part difficult as I would like to help everyone
Waiting in the school reception area on a cold rainy windy Wednesday afternoon
I wasn’t really looking forward to a couple of hours pounding the pavement doing a school route audit
. A school route audit looks at the different routes that pupils and parents take to school and assesses what can be improved, what the dangers are, areas of antisocial behaviour, litter and anything else that springs to mind along the way. This outing today was led by a partner I have been working with called Living Streets
I have already worked in this area of Cheetham Hill
before transforming a litter strewn area into a community garden which the community themselves had planned, planted and were looking after. To build on this work I wanted to identify and develop another small area
So off we set
Walking with 2 teachers, 8 children and 6 parents and 2 community police officers, led by Simon from Living Streets. Simon had liaised with the school prior to the walk and the children had a map of the route with spaces around in which to write their comments.
What we found
Along the route we discovered many things we would like to change. Wheelie bins left out for days that blocked the pavement, litter, graffiti, alleyways made too narrow and gloomy with overgrown shrubs, bare patches of ground, ’20 is plenty’ signs slap bang in the middle of the pavement, cars parked on the pavement making people pushing prams step into the road to get along and a lack of a zebra crossing close to a playground. Doing this walk revealed how difficult it may be to walk to school and why going by car may be an easier option.
The two community policemen were very informative and they clarified the law on what to do if we see someone letting their dog foul the pavement, or if youngsters ride their bike on the pavement. The children asked questions and filled in their sheets despite having numb fingers and the parents told us what places looked like when the bins hadn’t just been emptied.
The outcome of the walk
Living Streets will compile a report to send to councillors and other stakeholders to canvas for change so that it is easier and more pleasant to walk to school. The community police officers have been invited to a coffee morning to speak to the parents about what to do when they see antisocial behaviour and how to report it. The children have discussed and decided how they can overcome some of the issues they have seen. The parents and I plan to put a raised bed containing herbs on a corner of ground, if permissions are granted.
The main thing I learnt was that community outreach work is never dull or lonely. We meet so many people who change our perceptions or enlighten our understanding. It’s all about give and take and surprises. There’s so much more to consider when we ask why don’t you do more exercise and walk to school and the other thing I discovered is that it’s adults who moan about the cold, not the children!