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Pupils take steps to beat obesity

London, Aug 16: A report has called for car exclusion zones around schools to help tackle global warming and obesity, but a Norfolk primary school has enjoyed success with a rewards scheme encouraging pupils to walk.

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has called for the exclusion zones, saying over-use of cars is fuelling the "twin crises" of global warming and an obesity epidemic.

Pupils at Millfield Primary School have already taken action, with a walk-to-school scheme in which they exchange "walking tokens" for healthy rewards.

A series of stamping machines, designed by the students, have been erected at points along the routes taken by children attending the school in North Walsham.

Since May, pupils have been encouraged to stamp tokens as they walk or cycle to class and exchange them for a range of rewards including healthy snacks, stationery and a choice of Friday afternoon activities.

School bursar Lesley Freezer said: "There are a lot more children walking to school and parents are making a point of parking away from the school and walking in with the children, rather than driving to the school gates."

She added: "It has also made an impact on the traffic congestion with a lot less cars parking near the school."

It is estimated that the "Stamp Stanley" scheme has removed 200 cars from the school run.

The IEEP said that if people walked one more hour a week, it could mean a reduction in average weight of up to two stones in a decade.

It also said that the additional walking could displace at least 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from cars.

In addition to the exclusion zones for schools, the report also called for the government to invest heavily in making Britain's streets more attractive to walk in.

Ms Freezer said that the children found the purple shoe-shaped stamping machines - a reference to the carbon footprint - "attractive" and "novel".

As a result of the project, Millfield Primary School has been selected to represent England and Northern Ireland in a European environmental competition.

Head teacher Cathy Parkinson said: "The judges were particularly impressed with the level of work and commitment amongst staff and pupils to tackle sustainable travel issues, the high success rate of the project within the school and the benefits experienced by the wider community."

The school's entry will be judged against other schemes submitted by schools in England, Northern Ireland, Italy, Germany and Spain to the Eco-Schools' Environment and Innovation project.

The organisation will distribute almost 20,000 euros (13,500) to winning schools in the form of a grant, helping them put their ideas into action and undertake work with the local community.

In May, Millfield Primary School was awarded 500 and a trophy by Norfolk County Council for its school travel plans including the Stamp Stanley initiative.

Another 11 schools in the county were highly commended by the council for their plans to improve the environment and pupils' health. Initiatives praised included "Bike Breakfasts" and "Traffic Free Fridays" schemes.

BBC News
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