Rising numbers of parents driving children to and from schools are raising safety concerns across the Wellington region as congestion is forcing children to navigate risky streets while walking and scooting to school or to parked cars. For Papakōwhai School’s Board of Trustees, the need for a solution was becoming increasingly apparent, with the realisation that a collaborative approach for this complex issue would bring the most success.
“The greater the pressure on streets and school entrances from parked cars, the higher the likelihood of injury to children,” says Porirua City Council’s Road Safety Coordinator, Mike George. “It’s an issue being faced by many schools, where parking issues and congestion around school entrances is common. We need to reduce the school car run both to promote safety and reduce emissions”.
While the problems vary between schools, at Porirua’s Papakōwhai School the pinch point was safety at its main entrance in a small cul-de-sac, where intensive parking and visibility issues combined to make it unsafe when children cross. To address the situation a partnership was developed between the Greater Wellington Travel Choice team, Porirua City Council’s Safety Coordinator Mike George and Enviroschools Facilitator Amanda Dobson.
The outcome was a proactive multi-dimensional approach which combined mode shift - safe and active travel to school - with strong student-led signage, spread over two terms. In the first term the focus was on creating support for, and participation in, active travel.
An integrated package of activities was developed, directly involving students in active transport options through participating in the Movin’March walking and wheeling programme and holding a Wheels Day on their Bikes in Schools track.
Classroom activities exploring the Active Travel Action resource and the broader context of travel, linking to the Enviroschools programme, also went ahead with the idea of encouraging families to change habits that impact negatively on the environment. It also supported students who are old enough to independently walk or wheel to school and to understand the wider benefits of these choices.
The collaborative work culminated in a final action, footpath painting. Led by students to create a safer set-down and pick-up environment, the outcome was the use of footpath symbols painted by tamariki to encourage safety and deter students from unsafely crossing the road to get to parked vehicles.
“The safety plan has been a real success,” says Papakōwhai Principal Mark Smith. “By participating in Movin’March, the school supported a parent-led walking school bus from nearby Countdown in Aotea to the school. There was a groundswell of support from parents, and Enviroschools Facilitator Amanda Dobson helped lead this initiative throughout Term 1. Some families continued beyond Movin’March because it was so successful.
Papakōwhai School students have followed in the footsteps (and bike tracks) of their neighbouring Enviroschool, Paremata School, who had earlier trialled the Active Travel Action resource in 2019 with really positive results.
The Paremata School students began by using the resource to explore their neighbourhood. Their teacher, Jannien Kamphuis, asked them what they saw when they were walking to school and helped them develop a connection to the nature that was around them. Ms Kamphuis believes that by walking to school and observing nature the students develop a sense that they need to look after it.
The students discovered, however, that many students were being driven to school because the road didn’t feel safe for active travel. This led the class to come up with a range of suggestions for safety improvements outside the school, including a non-parking area. They took their findings to the principal, Matua Bryce Coleman.
Matua Bryce and the teachers supported the students to present their learnings and solutions in front of Porirua City Council, now familiar with submissions from young people. This was an empowering process for students who met the councillors, learned the name of their mayor and received the help they needed and felt really proud.
Paremata School became the first school in Porirua to have a smart road sign funded in partnership with Porirua City Council and Paremata Residents Association.
“The principal tried to do this and he didn’t succeed. Some board members, I think, tried to do this and they didn’t succeed. But us children and Ms Kamphuis succeeded.” – student
Kirsty, the Travel Choice Coordinator from Greater Wellington Regional Council had the opportunity to work with Paremata School to make the video below to share the inspiration with others.
The content of the Active Travel Action resource was developed and coordinated by Enviroschools Facilitators Gill Stewart and Arihia Latham.
Gill collaborated with former Enviroschools teacher, Caragh Briggs, and Arihia providing a strong te ao Māori perspective throughout.
GWRC’s Travel Choice team provided design and research expertise and have helped fund Professional Development workshops for teachers wanting to implement the resource at their school. Future funding is expected to continue to support schools interested in using the resource in ways which are tailored and responsive to their needs.
Jannien Kamphuis, Year 3 Teacher at Paremata School at the time, loved that she could “dive in and out” of the resource.
Mode shift key to student safety. Greater Wellington Regional Council website, August 2022
Paremata School students engage in active travel. Enviroschools website, August 2021