Youngsters in Central Bedfordshire set to travel to Lapland... virtually!

The challenge sees them travelling the 2,000 miles via sustainable trips to school

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 12:32 pm

Youngsters from Chronicle Country schools are set to travel to Lapland to visit Santa - virtually.

Lower and primary schools have once again signed up to a Christmas challenge and will be counting up their walking, scooting and cycling trips to school to see if they can cover the distance to Lapland.

Central Bedfordshire Council organises the challenge, in partnership with sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which runs until December 10 and aims to decrease the number of cars used on the school run.

Visitors gather outside of Santa's office at Santa Claus Village - but Central Beds children will only be covering the distance to it virtually.

Almost 30 schools have already signed up to take part in this year’s challenge which also gives pupils the opportunity to learn about the towns and cities of the countries they visit along the way.

That includes Lawnside Academy and St Andrew's VC Lower School in Biggleswade, Robert Peel Primary School and St Swithuns in Sandy, Southill Lower School, Fairfield Park Lower School and St Mary's VC Lower School in Stotfold, Meppershall CofE Academy and Northill VA Lower School.

Using a class record sheet, pupils and their teachers will monitor active travel trips to school.

All journeys will then be combined with the goal of achieving 2,000 miles, the equivalent distance from Central Bedfordshire to Lapland.

Each participating school will receive a scooter for one of their lucky pupils taking part.

The challenge has been running for eight years now and every year there has been an increase in the number of schools signing up to the challenge.

Last year, pupils in Central Bedfordshire collectively travelled 175,245 sustainable journeys to school during the two-week challenge.

Siobhan McSwiggan, Sustrans Schools and Communities Officer, said: “The journey to school, even in winter, is a great opportunity to get moving, stay healthy and arrive at school energised and ready to learn.

“The majority of pupils live less than a mile from their school; a twenty-minute walk or 7-minute cycle. For some village schools, journeys can be longer, but we’re also counting those who park and stride or park and scoot. This limits congestion at the school gate, making roads around the school safer and less polluted, whilst also providing a fun way to encourage everyone to travel to school in an active way.”

Councillor Steven Dixon, Executive Member for Sustainability at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “This is the eighth time we’ve funded the Santa Challenge, which is a fun initiative that can bring serious benefits.

“As well as the health impacts of encouraging families to get more exercise by walking, cycling or scooting to school, it can also benefit the whole community by helping to reduce congestion, and therefore improving air quality. Children are advised to have some exercise every day, and this challenge is a really fun and easy way to achieve this.”