Sustainable Modes of Travel to School Strategy (SMOTSS)


Introduction and key benefits


Our aim is to support and encourage Surrey families to make more active, safe, and environmentally friendly travel to and from their school. We will deliver this with reference to three key themes:

  • Promotion: highlighting the benefits of sustainable travel
  • Skills and knowledge: providing training and education to improve children's and parent's confidence and ability to travel sustainably and safely
  • Improving the journey: developing infrastructure and services in support of sustainable modes

If you would like to view the full Sustainable Modes of Travel to School Strategy (SMOTSS) including the Appendices, please email to a request a copy.

Key benefits

  • By building children's confidence in their ability to travel to school actively, safely and eventually independently, as well as providing them with the knowledge needed to make sustainable choices, they can be empowered to develop life-long, safe and sustainable habits which benefit the whole community.
  • Daily physical activity such as walking or cycling to school have enormous health and wellbeing benefits. It's a great way for children to start the day, and research has shown a link to improved behaviour and concentration. Active journeys to school also contribute to the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day for those aged 5 to 18 years, helping develop positive habits and maintain health and fitness from an early age.
  • Road and pedestrian safety is important to us all We all care about the devastating impact of road accidents on our young people, and continue to work hard to reduce these.
  • Fewer cars outside school gates means less congestion, obstructive parking, and anti-social driving issues, as well as fewer complaints from residents.
  • Improved air quality from reduced nearby vehicle idling and exhaust pollution at drop off or pick up supports better local health outcomes.

Below we describe a range of our and objectives that this Sustainable Mode of Travel to School Strategy (SMOTSS) contributes to. Following this, we describe the activities we will be undertaking to deliver our aims. Within Appendix One we also describe how the SMOTSS fulfils certain requirements of the Education and Inspections Act (2006).

Strategic Context

Community Vision for Surrey in 2030

The Community Vision for Surrey 2030 is the County Council's overarching corporate strategy. It encompasses our ambitions for people and place:

The ambition for people is that by 2030 we want Surrey to be a uniquely special place where everyone has a great start to life, people live healthy and fulfilling lives, are enabled to achieve their full potential and contribute to their community, and no one is left behind.

The SMOTSS contributes directly to two of the five ambitions for people in the Community Vision 2030, shown in bold below:

  • Children and young people are safe and feel safe and confident.
  • Everyone benefits from education, skills and employment opportunities that help them succeed in life.
  • Everyone lives healthy, active, and fulfilling lives, and makes good choices about their wellbeing.
  • Everyone gets the health and social care support and information they need at the right time and place.
  • Communities are welcoming and supportive, especially of those most in need, and people feel able to contribute to community life

The ambition for place is that we want our county's economy to be strong, vibrant and successful and Surrey to be a great place to live, work and learn. A place that capitalises on its location and natural assets, and where communities feel supported, and people support each other.

The SMOTSS contributes directly to three of the ambitions for place in the Community Vision 2030 shown in bold below:

  • Residents live in clean, safe and green communities, where people and organisations embrace their environmental responsibilities.
  • Journeys across the county are easier, more predictable and safer.
  • Everyone has a place they can call home, with appropriate housing for all.
  • Businesses in Surrey thrive.
  • Well-connected communities, with effective infrastructure, that grow sustainably

Surrey's Climate Change Strategy 2020

Surrey's climate change strategy sets out the shared ambition of Surrey's 12 local authorities thus: We want our residents to live in clean, safe and green communities, where people and organisations embrace their environmental responsibilities.

In support of this ambition, and the UK's commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. the strategy sets out our collective commitment to do our part to tackle climate change. One important part of this are our priorities for the transport sector, aimed at reducing emissions whilst providing a better and more comprehensive transport system. This is centred on a three-pronged approach of reducing journeys, shifting to an increased use of public and active transport modes and developing zero emission vehicle options. Combined, these priorities will bring about significant improvements in our air quality and the health of our residents, including in and around schools. The SMOTSS contributes directly to these priorities.

Health and Wellbeing Strategy

Surrey's Health and Wellbeing Strategy sets out three interconnected priorities:

  • Supporting people to lead healthy lives by preventing physical ill health and promoting physical well-being
  • Supporting people's mental health and emotional well-being by preventing mental ill health and promoting emotional well-being
  • Supporting people to reach their potential by addressing the wider determinants of health

Within these there are outcomes that SMOTTSS will contribute to including:

  • People have a healthy weight and are active
  • People access training and employment opportunities within a sustainable economy
  • The benefits of healthy environments for people are valued and maximised (including through transport/land use planning)

Local Transport Plan 4

Our Local Transport Plan (LTP 4) sets out our plans for transforming our transport network from 2022 up to 2032 and beyond. LTP4 aims to significantly reduce carbon emissions from transport to meet our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Government's national legal commitment. To achieve these objectives, LTP4 places a bigger emphasis on behaviour change and greener modes that align with the following three principles:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel by reducing the number and length of trips needed. We aim to achieve this through improving planning for homes and employment sites, travel planning and levels of digital connectivity.
  • Shift travel choices to more sustainable modes of transport, including public transport, walking and cycling, away from car use.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of vehicles and operational efficiency of roads through technology improvements

The activities described within this SMOTSS contribute directly to the "Shift" and "Improve" principles within the Local Transport Plan 4. This is described within Appendix One.

The Strategy


Our aim is to support and encourage Surrey families to make more active, safe, and environmentally friendly travel to and from their school. The strategy is being delivered with reference to three key themes which complement the principles used within the LTP4 Strategy. Whilst we are unable to "Avoid" the need to travel to school, we are still able to "Shift" and "Improve" school related journeys. Our themes used to promote this strategy will be described as:

  • Promotion: highlighting the benefits of sustainable travel
  • Skills and knowledge: providing training and education to improve children's and parent's confidence and ability to travel sustainably and safely
  • Improving the journey: developing infrastructure and services in support of sustainable modes

Understanding the Travel and Transport Needs of Children and Young People Making Journeys for Education [H3]

The activities we undertake to deliver the objectives of the strategy have been developed following analysis of data to understand the scale and nature of the task. Within Appendix 2 we provide an explanation of the number of different types of schools across Surrey, and the population of children within them.

In Surrey there are 511 schools, of which 299 are state primary schools, 61 are state secondary schools and 109 are independent schools. There are approximately 200,000 pupils attending these 511 schools with typically 13,500 pupils in a single year-group. Therefore, any services or activities we provide need to be scalable across a sufficient proportion of the school population to be have a significant impact towards our Community Vision, Climate Change and Health and Well-being ambitions.

Further understanding is gleaned from an annual survey of parents to try to ascertain the existing modal split for school journeys, and what barriers might exist that deter sustainable travel choices. A summary of the findings of the most recent annual survey is presented within Appendix 4.

More detailed information on the travel patterns for individual schools is also available if the school has a school travel plan. It is an essential requirement to undertake a survey of the travel choices of pupils to inform a school's travel plan. We encourage schools to publish their School Travel Plans (which contains their survey results) on their website.

Delivering the Initiatives: Interventions

The Safer Travel Team offer a suite of initiatives and training that have been developed to address needs identified in our annual travel survey and assessment of needs. These initiatives and training services are available to all schools and are designed to promote and encourage the school's community to travel to school more sustainably. A summary of our initiatives that we offer can be seen in appendix four.

School Travel Plans: Modeshift STARS

A school travel plan is an action plan created by the school that identifies problems and barriers to active travel and sets a plan to improve road safety, promote sustainable travel and reduce the number of journeys made by car. The Safer Travel team encourage schools to use the Modeshift STARS online portal, supported by the Department for Transport to create their plan. All the initiatives that we offer can be included within the school travel plan, along with many other initiatives that the school can take up from other organisations. Other initiatives can be seen in appendix five.

Currently we have a total of 115 schools in Surrey working with the Safer Travel team on their school travel plan.

The Modeshift STARS systems operates on an annual accreditation basis with 3 schools achieving Green accreditation, 52 achieving Bronze, 3 Silver, 1 Gold and 2 have achieved Platinum accreditation.

Over the coming year it is our intention to prioritise our resources to work more intensively with fewer schools to increase the standard of their travel plans. The aim will be to achieve fewer car journeys and more active travel to these schools.

Feet First: Walking Training

Feet First: Walking training is aimed at children who are aged 7 to 8 years old (Year 3), providing them with practical road safety skills and preparing them for independent travel in the future and benefits their personal health and wellbeing through understanding the benefits of travelling actively to school.

This course covers the following learning topics:

  • The Green Cross Code
  • Road signs and pedestrian crossings
  • Recognising safer and unsafe places to cross
  • How to cross between parked cars
  • The benefits of active travel

This potential shift in mode of travel to school directly contributes to reducing carbon emissions and improving the health, wellbeing, and quality of life for young people in Surrey. During the 2021 to 2022 academic year we successfully trained over 2,500 pupils, with an ambition to train over 6,500 pupils during the 2022 to 2023 academic year.

'Bikeability' Cycle Training

Our Cycle Training Team deliver courses to develop practical skills to enable people to ride bikes in progressively more challenging environments.

  • Learn to ride: for all ages but most usually year 3 and 4 pupils, progress to start, pedal, steer and stop from not riding at all.
  • Level 1: for year 4, developing balance and control skills in a three-hour course in the playground.
  • Level 2: for year 6, cycling in traffic along quieter roads, usually 1.5 hours each day for 5 days.
  • Independent Cycling to secondary school: for secondary school pupils, using route planning to put their Level 2 skills into practice and dealing with busier roads when needed.

Across Surrey we train 4660 pupils at Level 1 and 6257 pupils at Level 2.

Road Safety Theatre Performance

The aim of "Streetwise" Road Safety Theatre Performance is to make students aware of the of their responsibilities as pedestrians, and positively influence their attitudes and behaviour. This intervention technique aims to make students aware of the risk and consequences of failure to adopt safe behaviour as pedestrians through an interactive theatre production. Performances are delivered in the Spring term to secondary school's year 7 students (11 and 12-year-olds), this production focuses on the fact that the student audience is the transition year between primary and secondary school where many students have recently become independent travellers and have been identified as an age group prone to risk taking, representing a peak in pedestrian casualties.

During the 2021 to 2022 academic year 30 secondary schools took part in our theatre tour. At present we do not have funding secured to deliver this course during the 2022 to 2023 academic year.

Eco-Schools Programme

Eco Schools is the largest environmental awards programme in the world. It is an ideal way for schools to improve their environment both in the school and within the local community.

Eco-Schools helps by encouraging schools to look at sustainable and active modes of travel to and from school. Transport is one of ten topics schools can focus on to achieve the globally recognised Eco-Schools green flag award.

Eco-Schools also supports other priorities, including air quality, energy, waste and climate change.

We are currently ranked in the top ten local authorities in England for the number of Green Flag Awards. We have 232 schools that are engaged with the Eco Schools programme and 73 achieving the coveted Green Flag award.

The Safer Travel Team support Eco-Schools by offering targeted support on topics such as sustainable transport, waste and energy.

Road Safety Outside Schools

School road safety is frequently expressed as an area of concern by parents, teaching staff, local residents and Members. At school drop off and pick up times the roads in the immediate vicinity of schools are especially busy. This often causes slower vehicle speeds and congestion and can lead to frustration for motorists and residents.

Our aim is to reduce the risk of collisions and to make the road feel safer, thus encouraging more people to consider walking or cycling to and from school. We have developed a Road safety outside schools policy that describes the process we will use for investigating and responding to concerns about school road safety.

The Safer Travel Team work with schools to reduce nearby road congestion and create a safer and healthier environment. We do this by encouraging schools to develop a school travel plan, this accompanied with our practical walking and cycle training offer can lead to increased levels of cycling, walking, and scooting to school.

Recognising that safety and reducing speeding, especially around schools, are matters our residents want to see prioritised, an additional budget of £3million was created to deliver highway improvements in and around schools right across Surrey over three financial years (2022 to 2023 and 2024 to 2025 inclusive). Further information including plans on how this additional funding is being invested can be found in the Cabinet Member report.

Safety of Route Assessments

The Safer Travel team offer support to internal Surrey School Travel and Assessment Team colleagues by conducting a risk assessment of the road safety of a walked route with an accompanying adult to school. Assessments are made for free home to school transport if they live in Surrey and attend their nearest school and the walking distance to the school (accompanied by an adult as necessary) is:

  • More than two miles if they're under eight years old, or
  • More than three miles if they're eight or older, or
  • Less than the respective distance if the walking route is assessed as unsafe.

As part of this process, we seek to identify highway improvements that can make walking routes safe and increase the number of children and young people able to use sustainable travel for their school journey.

School Crossing Patrols

A School Crossing Patrol is one possible road safety measure that could be considered when investigating safety issues outside schools. The Service is overseen by the Safer Travel Team who ensure that School Crossing Patrols are recruited, trained, and appropriately supervised and that sites are risk assessed to ensure that they are appropriate and safe. There are 26 active sites across our county, providing valuable assistance to children and parents/carers in crossing the road.

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