by Janice Gillie
fifty pairs of bright yellow wellies are to be found in the cloakroom of Westruther Primary School after every pupil in the school was issued with a pair of ‘walking wellies’ courtesy of Scottish Borders Council.
Road safety in the village has long been an issue, and five years ago a ten year old pupil was killed on that same road, just outside Westruther near Twin Law Cairns. After getting off a school bus Joanne Wilson was struck by a Citroen van as she crossed the road with her brother.
At a recent Westruther School Travel Plan meeting about children walking along the B6456 which goes right through Westruther, a number of parents raised concerns about it and the result is that the council has provided them with wellies funded by SUSTRANS, the national sustainable transport charity.
Westruther Primary School headteacher Kay Livinstone said: “It was mainly because they walk along the main road and we wanted them off the road. There is a pavement but not all the way along the loaning gets very muddy so the children were coming in to school with muddy shoes.
“Now we are raising money to have welly stands made, to hang the wellies upside down in the cloakroom.”
Ideally parents and school staff would like to see the pavement extended right through the village, and long term that is what the council hope to do as part of their safer routes to school programme, but with funding being tight, plans to improve pedestrian safety may have to wait.
Executive member for education, Councillor George Turnbull said: “We are delighted to supply these walking wellies to pupils within more rural areas to improve pupil safety and also for those who walk or ‘park and stride’ to school. Westruther, Sprouston, and Swinton primary schools have all benefited from the scheme to date.”
Getting to school has become more and more of a concern for parents everywhere in recent years and the perception that there is greater danger on roads has led to more children being taken to school by car, itself causing congestion on roads around schools and creating even greater risk.
The Scottish Integrated Transport White Paper ‘Travel Choices for Scotland’ prompted the council to introduce its Safer Routes to School programme in 2000. Schools were invited and encouraged to prepare school travel plans which aim to introduce measures for reducing unnecessary car trips and suggest practical travel alternatives appropriate for the school and the local community.
For its part, the council, through its school travel co-ordinator provides technical and professional advice to support the plans and helps secure funding for the various proposals.
But in the mean time Westruther pupils are relying on their brightly coloured wellies and luminous safety jackets to be seen by motorists passing through the village, and they have the added bonus of being able to walk in the mud instead of on the road, without getting into trouble about the state of their shoes when they get to school.
SBC’s school travel co-ordinator has introduced a number of initiatives including; Walk once a Week - an initiative which promotes walking to school on a regular basis; Park and Stride - this encourages parents to park away from the school gates, reducing congestion and improving fitness pupils’ health by getting them to walk the last part of the journey; Green Feet Forward - an initiative launched to Primary Schools in the Borders in 2009, encouraging pupils to use ‘greener’ forms of transport.