Smartphone app keeps kids safe on school run

Thursday 25 July 2013
Walking School Bus Co-ordinator, Trish Kiernan, with Chloe, Phoebe and Callum.

The University of Salford has been working with Westwood Park Primary School in Eccles to pilot a smartphone app which allows parents to keep track of their child’s walking bus (a group of children walking to school with one or two adults).

Walking school buses have been set up around the country to reduce congestion on the roads, encourage physical exercise and attendance and ensure children can safely walk to and from school without their parents.

Families at Westwood Park have been trialling the app with one of the walking school bus co-ordinators, Trish Kiernan. The app allows registered parents or children to visually track them as they walk to school, stopping at scheduled stops along the way.

Psychologists Dr Sarah Norgate and Dr Liz Smith from the University of Salford teamed up with computer scientists Chris Winstanley and Professor Nigel Davies from Lancaster University to develop the unique smartphone app.

Dr Sarah Norgate, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said: “Walking school buses are an effective way to promote children’s independent mobility and road sense. With this new application, parents can track the safe arrival of the walking school bus at the school gates.”

Trish Kiernan, Walking School Bus Coordinator, said: “This app also has the potential to be used in schools with attendance issues. Parents can use it to sign their children up to the walking school bus and know they’ve arrived safely.”

Head Teacher Sara Walker agrees: “Children are motivated to see the arrival of the walking school bus on the screen, and to join other pupils on the school run.”

Steve Glazebrook, Smarter Choices Officer at Transport for Greater Manchester, was instrumental in the initial market research phase of the app design, bringing together the think tank of the Greater Manchester districts with the University of Salford.

He said: “This innovation has the potential to increase family motivation for alternatives to the car on the school run, improve child fitness levels and encourage parents’ peace of mind about their child arriving at the school gates both safely and punctually.”

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and is part of the wider Sixth Sense Transport initiative between the University of Salford, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Edinburgh and Bournemouth University to develop apps that will encourage more sustainable travel options.

For more information about the app, please contact Dr Sarah Norgate at s.h.norgate@salford.ac.uk.