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Hear from Bridgewater Primary School in Hertfordshire who have reached Outstanding Accreditation

Interview with Andrea Bettridge and Rachael Skelding, Bridgewater Primary School in Hertfordshire.

Image – Mayor of Dacorum : Councillor William Allen and Headteacher Andrea Bettridge.

Tell us about Bridgewater Primary School and congratulations on achieving Outstanding STARS Accreditation!

We have 458 children in our primary school and we are in a large former Middle school site on the edge of a National Trust Forest.  We have a positive school ethos and we promote being outdoors as much as possible.  Our parents, teachers and local community are very supportive of our school and our school culture is that we are brave, we are kind, we are respectful, and we are a team.

Image – Pupils and staff from Bridgewater Primary School, Councillor William Allen & Shirley Clark from Hertfordshire CC

Are you involved in Eco Schools and other partners?

Yes, we have Eco Councillors and we have had our Bronze Award from Eco Schools.   We have held the School Games Mark in Gold for several years now and we are proud of this and something that we will continue to take part in.

What made you get involved in Modeshift STARS and develop your Travel Plan?

Andrea Bettridge said ‘I inherited the Travel Plan from a previous head teacher and I adopted it and took it further.  For me it gives us a structure and something to work towards and gives us something to follow and system to log all of our activities.  STARS gives us ideas about what else we can do in our school and by achieving accreditation awards we see our successes.’

Rachael Skelding said ‘We are already doing lots of things in school and through the travel plan we get credit for all the activities and initiatives that we undertake.  The travel plan gives us an overview and structure to our accomplishments.’

What did you want to achieve from developing your travel plan? Were you trying to address any specific issues?  If so what were they and have they been addressed?

The biggest thing is safety.  Being healthy and encouraging walking to be healthier, keeping cars off the road and reducing car fumes is important but my biggest concern was the safety of our children. We felt that where parents were parking was becoming dangerous and a risk to our children.  We wanted to improve the parking situation and looking at ways to encourage people not to drive.   There are other issues such as air quality, health and fitness etc but the key for me is to remove cars from the front of our school for safety reasons. We have done this by promoting a drop off zone away from the school gates and seeking support to install a new gate and footpath at the back of school.   Our aim is to deter cars coming to school by making walking routes more accessible.

We are a very popular school and we have noticed that younger families who are joining our school are more likely to be driving their children and this is something we are concerned about.  We want to target this and we are really keen to promote the health benefits of children and their parents walking to and from school.

Who has been involved in delivering your Travel Plan?

Both Andrea Bettridge and Rachael Skelding have led the Travel Plan delivery.  Rachael Skelding works with the Hertfordshire Council Officers and completes all the administration and Modeshift updates online. She then liaises with Andrea Bettridge who includes travel planning on the schools Senior Management Team agenda and then they set out the priorities for the year.  The school works with local residents,  School Staff and Governors and they in turn have helped and supported the development of the Travel Plan.  The Eco Schools lead teacher helps out along with children from Eco Schools Council.  Overall, the whole school know about the travel plan and our priorities so everyone supports and are involved in the Travel Plan.  Ideally we would like more parents to be involved in the process and support our Travel Plan but this can be tricky as things like parking are such a controversial topic.  Our ambition is to relaunch our Walking Bus and we need more parents to be involved to make this a success.    Throughout this process we have been very well supported by Shirley from Hertfordshire County Council who has worked alongside us to suggest ideas for initiatives and who has provided general guidance and support.

What is the best thing you have done as part of developing your Travel Plan?

Andrea Bettridge said ‘For me it is the Key Stage 2 Drop off Zone.  Around 4 years ago we introduced a drop off zone, where parents of children in KS 2 could pull up and drop their children off with a member of staff and then we would walk the children the rest of the way into school.  This has been a really great success as it prevents parking at the front of the school.  There are generally around 20 cars who use this facility on a daily basis.  There have been lots of other initiatives that we have delivered but this is the one that has had the biggest impact.’

Rachael Skelding said ‘I would say that walking to school day is also a great success for us and works well especially on days when the weather is good and it’s easy to do with the whole school.’

Our future ambition is to create a Drop off Zone for the KS1 children.

What would you say to anyone thinking about starting their Modeshift STARS journey?

Don’t be afraid of it, give it a go and take small steps.  You will be surprised how much you already do and the Travel Plan puts it all in once place.  Start with 1 or 2 initiatives and build up from there.

Speak to your Local Authority Travel Plan lead.  Our Local Authority officer from Hertfordshire gave some good advice to help us build up our Travel Plan and climb the accreditation ladder. We looked at what we could do each year the built on that adding more initiatives year on year.

Think about what you are already doing and record it in STARS.  Honestly, put everything you do into STARS!  You will be amazed how much you can add.

What are your next steps for your Travel Plan?

We have an ambition to install a gate at the back of the school to relieve pressure from the front of school and encourage walking.  This will require not only a new gate but a footpath across the field to help people who live that side of the school to walk rather than drive.  We have support from the Mayor of Dacorum : Councillor William Allen including funding to get this progressed.

The Mayor is also supporting us with our request for double yellow lines to prevent parking at the front of the school, we were delighted to welcome the Mayor when he visited and presented our  STARS Outstanding Accreditation certificate.

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