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More safety in numbers

By Emily Norman

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More than a dozen Fernridge School pupils itched with excitement as they climbed aboard the walking school bus initiative yesterday morning.

Launched to combat “parents’ fears” of their little ones walking to school, the scheme also instils independence in young kids, and kick-starts their day of learning.

The kids, some of them siblings, walked about 1.5km from an Upper Plain Rd bus stop to Fernridge School, breathing in the fresh country air as they went.

Teacher Hayley Inder said there were a few reasons the school had joined the initiative.

“People are getting afraid to let their little ones go to school on their own,” she said, and referred to an incident this year when a 5-year-old girl was abducted on her way to school in Palmerston North.

“When that happened, that’s when I had a look into the idea of a walking school bus for Fernridge.

“It builds independence in the little kids and they also get invigorated by the time they get to school, so their brains are engaged and ready to learn when class starts.”

Wairarapa Road Safety Council school travel planner Holly McGeorge walked with the kids yesterday, counting how many steps they took.

She said there had been some sightings in Wairarapa last term of “someone trying to pick up a kid”, and hoped this initiative would be a deterrent.

“I think this is a really good positive way to still encourage kids to walk to school in a safety in numbers approach,” she said.

“It’s also a social thing and it helps develop their independence.

“As they get old enough to be able to walk in a smaller group, they’ll have the understanding of what they’ve got to look out for like sneaky driveways and how to say no to strangers.

“Also, in that situation if you are walking in a group, it’s less likely for stranger danger to occur.”

She said the Wairarapa Road Safety Council wanted to hear from other Wairarapa Schools who were interested in starting their own walking school bus.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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