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John Paul II gears up for Walk Safely to School Day

JOHN Paul II staff and students are gearing up to pound the pavement later this month when they take part in National Walk Safely to School Day.

Held on Friday 18 May, the community initiative raises awareness of the health, road safety, transport and environmental benefits that regular walking (especially to and from school) can provide for the long-term wellbeing of children.

In the lead up to the event, John Paul II received a special visit from Local Liberal Member for Franklin and Minister for Sport and Recreation Jacquie Petrusma, who joined her two young grandchildren in their walk to school.

Ms Petrusma said she encouraged school children of all ages to get involved in the annual Walk Safely to School Day event.

“I was delighted to recently join students from John Paul II Primary School,” she said.

“Walk Safely to School Day is a great event which can help students and their families make healthy lifestyle changes to the daily routine of school pick up and drop off.

“This is great way to promote the benefits of walking while educating our primary school students on the vital importance of road safety skills.

“I encourage parents and carers to get involved with this event, particularly for those with children 10 years and under who need extra supervision when near or crossing roads.

“As a community, we should be ensuring our children can walk safely to school every single day, while as parents and carers we can lead by example and help kids learn safe pedestrian behaviour, while being active and healthy too.”

Now in its 19th year, Walk Safely to School Day encourages primary school aged children to build walking into their daily routine by walking to and from school not just on Friday 18 May, but every day.

Apart from the physical benefits, regular walking also has a favourable impact on their cognitive and academic performance.

John Paul II Primary School principal Fran Bearman said the school had been participating in Walk Safely to School Day for many years.

“It’s great way to raise awareness of the benefits of walking to school safely and we encourage all our families to get involved,” she said.

“In addition to encouraging our families to walk to school on Friday 18 May, we also take the whole school on a walk around the block to promote the importance of keeping active and healthy.”

Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman and chief executive officer Harold Scruby said physical inactivity was a major risk factor for many chronic diseases that could affect kids at different stages of their life, including mental illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“One in four children in Australia are overweight or obese, and it is expected that numbers will reach one in three by 2020,” he said.

“We really need teachers, parents, carers and the community at large to get behind this event and its objectives – the best exercise for all of us is regular walking.

“Children require at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity. We should encourage them to include walking at the beginning, during and end of each day.”

The national initiative also promotes improved diets (by asking schools and P&Cs to host a healthy breakfast), positive environmental action, better use of public transport with reduced car-dependency and the vitally important road safety message: “Until they are 10, children must always hold the hand of an adult when crossing the road.”

It also encourages parents and carers to walk more, reducing dangerous traffic congestion around schools, while minimising the risk of Australian children developing heart disease and diabetes.

For more information about Walk Safely to School Day, visit www.walk.com.au/wstsd.

Tips on making sure kids get to and from school safely are available via the Road Safely Advisory Council’s ‘Road Safe Kids’ initiative at www.rsac.tas.gov.au/roadsafekids

Caption: John Paul II Primary School students, from left, Eli Headlam (grade four), Bella Smithies-Sharples (grade six) and Milly Lamprell (grade four) with Minister for Sport and Recreation Jacquie Petrusma and her grandchildren Noah Smith (grade six) and Hamish Smith (grade two).