Using planning to construct a better future

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Planning is the process of deciding what you want to achieve in the future and then thinking about ways of making it happen. First comes defining aims which are specific, measurable and achievable - which can be the most difficult part. Once you have done that, you can set about identifying what practical steps are needed.

Planning is not just important for individuals. It is also vital for the success of organisations. Forward planning is essential for every organisation whatever its business is. It should never be seen as a paper process or intellectual exercise with no relation to the real world. It is a practical tool, providing a guide to the complex series of actions which individuals and teams need to carry out over an extended period to achieve a goal.

Planning makes it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of action against clear standards. A plan can also contribute to a sense of common purpose and corporate identity. It is not easy to appreciate the various elements of the planning process if you do not have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in preparing a plan. The aims of this case study are to:

  • help you to appreciate the various elements of the planning process
  • give you a practical example of a complex problem which can be tackled by developing a plan based on research, survey data and consultation with other people
  • involve you in developing a travel plan for your school or college.

Planning should be a cyclical process leading to continual improvement. Monitoring and feedback lead to revision of the aims and of the ways of achieving them, and the results are in turn monitored. Doing this effectively requires not only teamwork and co-ordination, but also consulting all those who need to take action or who are affected. Each group and individual will have their own agenda, and a successful plan will consider how to deal with fears and concerns and sell the benefits.

The four school transport plans illustrated in this case study show how schools, teachers and students have worked together to develop plans to improve the journey to school.

There are more than nine million young people in education in the United Kingdom and the number of car journeys made to and from school and college contributes significantly to congestion and pollution. The National Travel Survey shows that there has been a significant shift away from walking to school towards car use, with the proportion of car journeys nearly doubling over the last 10 years: 29% of children travelled to school by car in 1995/7 compared to 16% in 1985/6. Well over a third of primary pupils now travel to school by car and over a fifth of pupils at secondary school. The causes are complex and interrelated, but include:

  • increased traffic on the roads leading to concerns about road safety
  • rising car ownership
  • a wider choice of schools other than neighbourhood schools
  • local changes in where people live and pupil numbers
  • declining bus services and rising fares
  • increased fears about personal safety, including bullying and abduction
  • children carrying more equipment and books to school
  • parents under increasing pressure of time and in some cases combining the journey to work with the school run.

As a result, traffic congestion at certain times of day is a major concern for local communities. During term-time, one in five cars on the road in urban areas at the morning peak of 8.50 am are on the ‘school run’. In many areas a vicious circle comes into being - fears about safety in traffic lead to less walking and cycling and more driving which in turn increases traffic. There are also many implications for local air quality, journey times and the competitiveness of local business organisations.

Market research

But the potential benefits of change are just as important. Surveys show there is unmet demand among young people for more independent travel and greater freedom. Freedom to move around the local area independently is an important part of growing up. Building exercise into the day improves fitness immediately and protects against coronary heart disease in the longer term. Independent travel to school is also a chance to help reduce local pollution and congestion, improving quality of life for everybody. Better local air quality is particularly beneficial for the growing number of people who suffer from asthma.

Research shows that it is possible to encourage greater use of greener forms of transport for school journeys even in areas of very high car ownership. One well-established way of tackling the problem is to develop safer routes for walking and cycling to school. But there are many other things which can be done to reduce car use and improve safety on the way to school, and many local projects are already putting them into practice. But usually no one change is enough to make the difference - a wide-ranging travel plan is needed.

The Government’s White Paper on the future of transport, published in July 1998, gives high priority to measures to reduce car dependency and traffic congestion, including encouraging the development of green transport plans for businesses, schools and hospitals. These are packages of simple practical measures to encourage the use of alternatives to the car - not just for environmental reasons but also to make transport safer, cheaper and healthier.

For a business a plan might focus on reducing driving alone either to the workplace or while travelling on business, by encouraging car-sharing, cycling and travelling by bus. Measures to reduce travel overall (by teleworking or flexiworking), to encourage more fuel efficient driving, and to encourage visitors and contractors to use greener transport might also be included. For a school, a plan might aim to increase walking, cycling and public transport use through escort schemes, adjustments to the school day, improvements to local transport services, traffic management measures and better facilities for those who walk or cycle (showers or lockers). The right package will depend on the situation at a particular school. Other important features are:

  • a member of staff or group of pupils with clear responsibility for implementing the plan
  • involvement from the Parent- Teacher or Home-School Association and from governors
  • inclusion of school travel issues in classroom work
  • information for parents and pupils about alternatives to car travel in the prospectus, in newsletters and other forms of communication.

This case study focuses on travel plans developed by five different schools in different parts of the country. These schools have responded to local needs and concerns in their own way, so some elements in each plan will not be relevant to your school - but some will be. These are examples to get you thinking, not models which should be followed in every detail.

Horndean Community School

This mixed secondary school in Hampshire has over 1,700 pupils and 150 staff. The campus is also open to local people, with a range of community facilities such as sports facilities, a nursery and a playgroup. The local authority has made the development of a school travel plan a condition of planning permission for the school’s extension.

The main objectives of the plan are to reduce the use of the car for journeys to school by 20% over three years, to raise awareness of the impact of transport on the environment and to reduce road casualties.

The plan was based on data from separate surveys of pupils, staff and parents. Questions covered where respondents lived, how journeys were made (both to and from school and for after-school activities), reasons for the choice and what would encourage a switch. The plan set out estimated costs for each proposal, identified a range of sources of funding, and set out a clear timetable including annual monitoring and review. Proposed measures include:

  • establishing a ‘park and walk’ arrangement with a local supermarket
  • providing new lockers, bus bays, cycle parking, and improved signing on site
  • use of school vehicles to transport staff and pupils to and from school
  • improving routes for walking and cycling
  • encouraging car sharing through a database of potential sharers and provision of a guaranteed ride home in an emergency
  • restricting car parking on site with permit scheme
  • providing information about public transport
  • co-operating with other schools in the area on approaches to bus operators, car sharing arrangements and school hours
  • promotion through competitions, leaflets, posters and the school newsletter.

Sandringham Secondary School (mixed, 1000 pupils) and Wheatfields Junior (mixed, 360 pupils) in St Albans have adjacent sites on a bus route. The objectives of the plan are to reduce child casualties, to reduce car journeys to school, and to increase walking, cycling and bus use. Questionnaires were sent to pupils and parents, a school working group was set up, and a pupil competition was run to design posters for an exhibition for local residents and others. Further consultation was carried out by means of questionnaires distributed at the exhibition. With the active support of the local authority, measures include:

  • cycle training, cycle routes, cycle parking (with target to triple cycle use at Sandringham)
  • improved frequency and timing of existing bus services, and one new bus service, based on demand identified from analysis of home addresses and school timetable
  • two new crossings and other improvements to walking routes
  • a ‘walking bus’ (escorted walk to school) for younger pupils
  • a car sharing database, giving details of potential sharers.

George Abbot School, Guildford

This is a mixed secondary school in Guildford with some 1800 pupils and good public transport links. The plan was prepared by the GNVQ Business Studies group, which produced a written report, followed by exhibitions and a computer presentation. The plan aims ‘to set out ways to make it easier to walk, cycle and use the bus to the school so that more people do it’- recognising that the group could not do everything itself but could make soundly based proposals to people in a position to take action.

The group treated the plan as a product which needed to be researched, marketed and ‘bought’ by the school community, the local authority, and local transport operators. Six key stages in the development of the plan were identified - market research, specifying the product, supplying the product, promoting the product, further market research, and improving the product.
 
A survey of pupils included questions on how journeys to school were made, reasons for not walking, cycling, or using the bus, what would encourage a switch, and whether pupils had ever been in a road accident or near-miss on the way to school. This was supported by data from the School Information Management System (SIMS) on postcodes and travel to school, which was plotted on a map using a geographic information system. Residents were also surveyed to find out their views on local danger points and proposals to improve safety at specific locations, such as bus bays, cycle routes, speed bumps and wider pavements. Traffic counts of cars, pedestrians and cyclists, and observations at problem areas were also carried out.

Based on analysis of data from all sources, the group concluded that about 38% of pupils walked, 3% cycled, 26% came by bus, and 33% travelled by car. Of those travelling by car, 40% were interested in walking, 60% in cycling and 50% in bus travel. These results were used to propose the following as realistic targets:

  • for four out of every ten pupils who currently come by car to come by other means of transport
  • to make sure that the conditions for people who already walk, use the bus or cycle are good so that they do not switch to travelling by car.

Measures proposed in the final plan include cycle lanes, pedestrian crossings, and a bus bay (for action by the local authority), cycle parking (for action by the school) and a discount travelcard and improved capacity on certain bus routes (for action by bus companies).

The Royal School, Hampstead

This central London girls’ secondary school has 500 pupils. It is well served by public transport, but car use for the journey to school is high. Congestion in the area around the school is a serious problem, which the plan sets out to tackle. The plan aims to reduce the proportion of car trips to the school by 30% initially over three years and to maintain or further reduce this proportion thereafter. Both staff and students are covered, based on the travel data obtained by a survey. Measures include:

  • encouragement of car sharing , based on an analysis of postcodes of pupils to identify clusters
  • a public transport information pack, distributed at the start of the year, with details of routes,
  • frequency and cost
  • interest-free loans for public transport season tickets for staff
  • secure storage for bicycles
  • part-time car park attendant
  • classroom work on environmental impacts of transport.

A named individual is responsible for co-ordinating the individual elements of the plan. Monitoring progress will take place through repeating the survey annually.