North Yorkshire Youth Travel Ambassadors lead the way in safer, cleaner school travel

Students from three North Yorkshire secondary schools will be encouraging their peers to use more environmentally friendly ways of travelling.

Students from three North Yorkshire secondary schools will be encouraging their peers to use more environmentally friendly ways of travelling to and from school after making successful funding pitches in a Dragons’ Den-style event.

The students are all part of the Youth Travel Ambassadors programme being run by North Yorkshire County Council’s sustainable travel team.

Groups from King James’s in Knaresborough, Skipton Girls’ High School and St Augustine’s Catholic School, Scarborough, have been working with the team to tackle issues of congestion and air quality at the school gates by developing proposals to encourage more children to walk, cycle or use public transport.

On Thursday 27th February the students successfully pitched their ideas to a panel of “Dragons” comprising the County Council’s Executive Member for Access, Cllr Don Mackenzie, Corporate Director of Business and Environmental Services David Bowe and Health Improvement Manager Ruth Everson. The event took place in the county council chamber in Northallerton.

Following their presentations and deliberations by the panel, each school was successful in securing the maximum funding of £500 to bring their projects to fruition.

Cllr Mackenzie said: “We were delighted to hear from young people who are so passionate and determined to make their world a cleaner, safer place. The County Council is committed to encouraging and facilitating sustainable travel wherever possible, so I am glad we can help these young people realise their ambitions. I look forward to following the progress of their schemes and I hope they will inspire other schools to consider what they can do to improve the environment and safety around their gates.”

King James’s proposal, devised and presented by 15 members of a support group for students with additional needs, aims to encourage more Year 7 students to walk to school. The group will run a selfie competition during the summer term for children who walk to school. The photos will be displayed in assembly and students taking part will have a chance to win a prize.

Learning support teacher Adele Vaux said: “It has been a fabulous day and the children have all benefited. It has brought them together as a team. They have been very supportive of each other.”

Colleague Julie Keogh added: “They feel like leaders. They feel like they are in charge and they can put forward a message. They have a message they’re really happy with and are excited by it.”

The Skipton Girls’ High School team developed a trio of proposals to encourage fellow students to consider alternatives to the car. Under the slogan Travel Made Easier, the proposals include setting up park and stride sites, where parents could park away from the school so that students could walk the last part of the journey, with rewards such as walkers’ breakfasts. The group also plans to prepare walking route maps and to run a social media campaign to persuade students to use more sustainable transport.

Deputy head Fiona McMillan said: “It has been a brilliant day for all the students from the three schools. The amount of work that has been done was really obvious, along with the commitment and passion for the cause.”

St Augustine’s students are focusing on congestion outside their school and aim to raise awareness by making a video to highlight the dangers, running a school gate banner competition and a campaign on the school website and social media.

Teacher Chris Goode, who is leading the project, said: “I think they have thoroughly enjoyed today. They have done very well and I’m very proud of them. It has been great working with North Yorkshire County Council. Seeing the other schools has been great, as well, they’ve got some really creative ideas.

“What they have done today is the beginning. They now have to launch their campaign. We want to try to make a difference with parents and youngsters.”

Youth Travel Ambassadors is part of the County Council’s Open North Yorkshire sustainable travel programme. It invited students aged 11 to 19 to become advocates for active, safe school travel.

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