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Written Statement  - Outcome of the consultation on updated guidance on the risk assessment of walked routes to schools

Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
This statement updates Assembly Members on the outcome of the recent consultation on revised guidance on the risk assessment of walked routes to school.

The consultation was prompted by the Children Commissioner for Wales drawing attention to the limitations of the current guidance and the need to enable children and young people to inform the risk assessment of routes to school.

The consultation ran from 18 November 2013 to 7 February 2014 and sought views on:
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the current risk assessment regime
  • The additional risk factors that should be considered in assessing the safety of routes
  • How children and young people can be engaged in the risk assessment process
We received 59 written responses to the consultation and, in addition, through direct engagement with children and young people we obtained the views of 542 primary learners and 136 secondary learners.

The feedback from children and young people showed that they were concerned about traffic and road safety matters and broader social dangers, particularly ‘stranger danger.’  
I recognise that local authorities expressed concern about how new guidance would impact on them and the possible resource implications but I am clear that our over-riding priority must be to ensure that children and young people are safe – and feel safe – when walking to school.  I will ensure that planned monitoring of the effectiveness of the new guidance enables us to establish whether there has been a significant impact on local authorities.

I will now work with the Children’s Commissioner to finalise the guidance and develop plans to monitor the effectiveness of implementation.  The intention is that the final guidance will be incorporated into the revised Learner Travel Operational Guidance and be published after Easter.   

More broadly, I am aware that there schools across Wales that suffer from poor, and potentially unsafe access.  This is not acceptable and I am taking steps to address these issues now.  As a first step, I have requested that my officials carry out a review of the safety of access to all schools on the trunk road network and I will prioritise funding to address the safety issues identified.  At the same time, the Safe Routes in Communities grant continues to provide funding for local authorities to make safety improvements and was specifically targeted at improving access to school for 2014/15.