Central Bedfordshire schools on their way to Lapland


Pupils across Central Bedfordshire will soon be on their way to Lapland to visit Santa, via a virtual journey that promotes walking, scooting and cycling to school.

The ‘Santa Challenge’ is an interschool competition that will run from 26 November to Friday 7 December. It is being funded by Central Bedfordshire Council’s ‘STARS project’ and organised by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.

Over 8,500 children across Central Bedfordshire have signed up to take part in this year’s 10-day challenge. The challenge gives pupils the opportunity to learn about the towns, cities, people and Christmas traditions of the countries that they’ll visit along the way. It also provides pupils and schools with information about how to be safe and confident during winter journeys.

Using a special record card, pupils and their parents can accumulate miles each time they cycle, scoot or walk to school, and get double miles if a parent cycles too. The journeys will then be added up to see whether each school has covered the 2,000 miles needed to reach Lapland from Central Bedfordshire.

Sustrans officers have already been explaining to pupils how easy it is to keep walking, scooting and cycling throughout the winter. All pupils that take part will be in with a chance of winning a ‘Frog Bike’, lightweight aluminium bikes specially designed for kids. Other prizes will also be distributed to schools for teachers to give out to participating pupils, including assorted bike-related goody bags.

Sustrans Schools and Communities Officer, Alister Barclay said: “Many schools made it to Lapland last year. Combining the miles from all the journeys made across Central Bedfordshire, we also travelled over four times around the world. This year, with a number of new schools joining in, we hope to get even further.

“Studies show that active travel to school boosts school test performance, and our surveys show that most children would prefer to get to school this way. We want to show that walking, scooting and cycling to school can be a year-round thing for everyone.”

Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “This is the 5th time we’ve funded this Santa Challenge. It’s a humorous 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 everyday, and this challenge is a really fun and easy way to achieve this.”

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