Eight-year-old Niamh Matthewson from Jarrow crossed the road to a regional record today.
Niamh, from St Mary’s RC School in Jarrow, became the 4,000th school pupil to take part in a special course to help primary children across Tyne and Wear walk safely to and from school.
The child pedestrian courses are run by alternative transport campaign Schools Go Smarter, which aims to persuade people to leave the car at home and help cut traffic congestion.
Trainers from each local authority and their assistants visit schools once a week for five to six weeks to give the children practical tips.
“The children absolutely love it,” said Tracey Dent, South Tyneside Child Pedestrian Coordinator.
“The first session is classroom-based to find out how much they know about road safety, and after that we take them out on sessions that focus on specific areas such as traffic lights and school crossing patrols.
“It’s a very practical approach using roads that the children cross every day, and adapting each course to the location of the school.
“We go back over the lessons learned at each session the next week to make sure they remember – some of the children have even been telling their parents how to cross safely!”
Marie Graham, Head of School at St Mary’s, said her school was delighted to be taking part in the pedestrian training sessions.
“We like to encourage our children to playing outside and walking and cycling to school as much as possible,” she said.
“But there are various dangers associated with this so we like to do all we can to make walking and cycling to school as safe as possible.
“By working with Schools Go Smarter we can improve awareness, boost confidence and help cut traffic problems caused by the school run – as well as encouraging more children to get fitter and healthier.”
The campaign was initially targeted at reaching 2,400 children this year, but schools have been so keen to take part that the number has already reached the 4,000 mark.
“The word has spread,” said Tracey. “Many of the schools are already trying to promote sustainable travel with walking buses and other projects.
“The training has now become a rolling programme, and thanks to extra funding we’ll soon be taking on two further trainers and increasing our hours.”
Go Smarter is run by the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, and brings together a wide range of projects for schools, businesses and individuals.
Councillor Tracey Dixon went along to St Mary’s to help mark the pedestrian training landmark.
She said: “I’m absolutely delighted to see that so many local children have enjoyed taking part in the Go Smarter training courses.
“Walking to school has many benefits – parents and children get to spend valuable time together and get fit and healthy, and everyone else benefits because congestion on the roads is reduced.
“Road safety is a crucial life-long lesson for children to learn, and we hope as many schools as possible will sign up for the training as Go Smarter continues to roll it out.”
Councilor Joan Atkinson, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families at South Tyneside Council, said: “Learning how to cross roads safely is an important issue and this practical roadside training helps to increase youngsters’ skills and awareness to ensure they are safer pedestrians.
“Our dedicated road safety team aims to educate children early so that they are better prepared to spot the hazards around roads and have the vital skills that could help them to avoid accidents in the years to come, not just on their way to and from school, but in their leisure time with family and friends.”
Schools who would like to take part in the pedestrian training for year three and four children can email Zoe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If any South Tyneside schools are interested in taking part in the child pedestrian training, email email@example.com for further details.