School streets and school play streets are two simple and brilliant ways to make it safer and healthier for children to walk and cycle to school by closing the street to cars during key times. They also reduce air pollution and enable children to play safely with their friends.
School streets have really taken off around the UK since the government announced funding and support for them in 2020 – in part as a way to enable social distancing outside the school gate. On this page you can find out how to help these ideas to grow in your community.
A school street means daily timed closures outside the school gate at drop off and pick up times, enforced using signage, physical barriers or cameras. This is a permanent change to the street and should have a big long-term impact.
A school play street is a one off or regular closure outside the school gate for around one hour after school with volunteer stewards managing the closure points. Like a normal play street, it allows children to play out safely and brings the community together. The stewards can talk to drivers and pedestrians about what is happening and resolve any issues, helping create a really positive atmosphere.
School streets are usually implemented by local authorities and require funding and political buy-in. They can be controversial, particularly at the start. You can read more and find resources to campaign for school streets on the campaign group Mums for Lungs website or the School Streets Initiative.
A school play street tends to be led by the school community (with permission from the council) and gives people the experience of the street being closed to cars and all the benefits that can bring. As well as being beneficial in itself, it can be a good way to gently introduce the idea of more permanent changes and to build support. Download our free guide to organising a school play street, written with our friends at Sustrans.
If your council doesn’t yet support school streets, or your school community isn’t yet sold on the idea, you could initiate a school play street to introduce the idea.
As with a normal play street, a school play street enables the community to come together in the organising process and for any issues to be worked through together. Some school play streets take place once a month or once a term. If they are successful and the community is behind it, the council may feel more confident to implement a school street.
For schools, parents, and residents who want to organise school play streets.
In July 2020, we ran a webinar called ‘play and school streets: why, when and how?’, with speakers from Sustrans, Leeds and Southampton councils. You can watch it for free here.