Making School Travel Plans Work: Effects, Benefits and Success Factors at English Schools

Making School Travel Plans Work: Effects, Benefits and Success Factors at English Schools


Dr Sally Cairns, Senior Research Fellow, TRL & UCL, UK, and Carey Newson, Schools Project Manager, Transport 2000, UK


This paper will report on research to identify and examine good practice in English school travel planning, including what successful school travel plans can achieve and what factors have been particularly important in achieving success.


This paper will report on research commissioned by the UK Department for Transport to identify and examine good practice in English school travel planning. The aim of the research was to examine what successful school travel plans could achieve and what factors had been particularly important in achieving success.

The work has fed into a DfT good practice guide for local authority school travel advisers, which, on completion, will be disseminated nationally and reflects latest thinking about the best ways to engage with schools in order to make a real difference to children's travel habits.

The work involved:
? A literature review;
? An initial survey of approximately 150 schools nominated by school travel experts as exemplifying good practice in school travel work;
? Detailed interviews with 30 case study schools chosen to reflect both the best of existing work, and the range of circumstances and strategies which schools may need to address;
? Detailed interviews with the 23 local authorities responsible for the case study schools; and
? Further interviews with a range of other experts on school travel strategy.

In total, about 90 people closely involved in school travel work were interviewed in detail, and some degree of feedback was received from about a further 100.

In terms of impacts on car use, the local authority data showed that when they engage with schools (that are happy to be involved), not all schools reduce car use. However, a high proportion (between 60% and 90%) can be expected to achieve positive modal shift, and a significant percentage (between 15 and 40%) can be expected to reduce car use by over a fifth. This implies that the overall effect of car use at all engaged schools is likely to be in the order of 8-15%. Meanwhile, 28 of the good practice case study schools had data about how total car use had changed. At these schools, (representing 17,800 pupils), the weighted average reduction in car use was 23%, with some schools cutting car use in half.

Other gains mentioned from school travel work included safety improvements; reductions in congestion at the school gate; health and fitness benefits; improvements in attendance, punctuality and readiness to learn; and benefits for pupils? personal development and for the wider community.

The study showed that the most successful school travel plans typically focused on a variety of initiatives, included significant levels of awareness raising, and had mechanisms in place to ensure that they were sustained over time. Almost all of the good practice case studies had benefited from:
? A positive relationship with local authority
? A head teacher that was supportive or very supportive of the travel work
? Sustained travel work over two years or more
? A significant level of awareness raising work
? Leadership from a champion and/or working group

Other factors which appeared to be linked to more successful travel work included:
? Pupil involvement in decision-making
? Formalising the aims of the work in written documentation; embedding school travel policy statements in mainstream school procedures like the induction process and development plan; and receiving external recognition for work.
? Extensive safety measures and safety improvements in the surrounding area
? Existing or enhanced parking restrictions
? Improved school facilities and arrangements at secondary schools (such as staff supervision for pupils arriving or leaving, new school entrances or footpaths etc.)

In relation to promoting individual modes, the study also showed the importance of:
? Cycle parking and off-road cycle lanes to promote cycling.
? Specific walking initiatives at primary level (including walking buses, walking incentive schemes and park and walk arrangements) to promote walking
? New or enhanced bus services, low fares or fare reduction schemes, and (at primary level) specific arrangements to make services more child friendly, to promote bus use.


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