A transport minister joined youngsters this morning to encourage pupils to walk to school.

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Norman Baker tagged along with Martins Wood Primary School pupils and Strider - the Living Streets’ Walk to School campaign mascot to promote the cause.

He also officially reopened the school’s rear gate which was closed off 12 years ago because of security concerns, allowing easier access for pupils coming from that side of the school.

Headteacher Tom Evans said the gate had been shut off following national atrocities including the Dunblane massacre but now thanks to improved time lock security it will automatically open 15 minutes before and after school.

“It will help encourage children and parents coming from that side of the school to walk.”

He added it will also ease parking problems and associated traffic danger on Mildmay Road by spreading drop off points to Sefton Road and surrounding streets.

The local and regional transport minister’s visit was part of a wider pilot project in Hertfordshire to increase walking levels among school children. Martins Wood is one of 12 schools in the county taking part.

Mr Baker said: “This pilot has shown that if you remove traffic and create an environment that is safe and fun, children and parents want to walk to school.

“This project is about giving local communities the support they need to tackle issues at a local level and Walk to School has delivered exactly that.

“Living Streets has done a great job at driving forward the project. I will continue to watch with interest the difference it makes to children’s school journeys.”

Tony Armstrong, Living Streets chief executive said he hoped the reopening of the gate would get parents and children back into the walking habit.

“The number of children walking to school has dropped to 47 per cent with 43 per cent of children being driven to school in cars nationally,” he said.

“Despite this our Walk to School interventions are bucking the trend. Schools that have adopted the Walk Once a Week scheme have reported a 10 per cent higher incidence of walking than the average in English schools.

“We hope that the success we have seen in Hertfordshire can be mirrored across the country to make walking the natural choice once more. It’s a great way to see the community, socialise with friends and get some much needed activity into your day.”

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