Last month’s Village View about the problem of parents parking outside schools across our area has stirred debate, not least in the offices of The Village magazine.
Below, the Editor argues for one side, while the publisher, who wrote it, says we must get children back on their feet.
A couple of years ago, we told the story of Norah May, an Alvechurch girl growing up in the early years of the last century.
In one passage she struggled to walk to school on her own in the winter wearing clogs. As the snow built up on her feet it was “like walking on stilts” and sometimes a piece would drop off and she’d twist an ankle.
Norah was seven or eight years old – oh, and at the time she was living in and walking from Studley, eight miles to Alvechurch.
More than 60 years later, when I was a schoolboy, I thought nothing of making my own way home from school on my own, certainly from the age of six – and would run the 3.5 miles between bus stops to save the fare.
At 55, I can still walk up mountains without losing breath and, while I may keel over tomorrow, I put this down to having a very active childhood.
So to see kids today, perhaps even as old as 10 or 11, being driven to and from school is a very sorry sight. The self-reliance, confidence and physical benefits that come from walking free are lost to them forever.
Both of my children attended the Alvechurch schools and, while I often drove them to the nursery on my way to work when they were little tots, I can’t think of a single occasion in all the years when I drove them to school.
So, while accepting the reference to 4x4s was gratuitous (and tastes in cars have moved on), I stand by every word I wrote last month. RP
Irresponsible parking cannot be condoned, and sadly there will always be a selfish minority – but the problem largely stems from the lack of parking facilities around our schools.
In the days when not many mothers worked, they could indeed walk their children to school, but these days the majority of parents do work, at least part-time, and therefore need to drop the kids off on their way to work – it’s simply the most efficient way to do it.
School bus services are often over-subscribed, and in a rural area like ours, some homes are not near a bus route (and are also too far away for children to walk).
And, while older pupils could be sent off to school on a bus or on foot, it’s frankly absurd to suggest that those under the age of seven or eight could walk by themselves.
We cannot turn back the clock to an age when kids walked 12 miles to school in a blizzard wearing short trousers – it’s not going to happen. We need to accept this, and seek a contemporary solution for a 21st-century problem.
Schools, or the authorities that govern them, should bear some responsibility for providing parking or drop-off areas for those who genuinely need them – this is harder for existing schools in urban areas, but parking should be factored into the design of new ones.
There’s also the “walking bus” idea, which relies on co-operation from parents and schools alike – so is it naive to think this concept could work in our villages? SO