All this school run mudslinging will get us nowhere

Peter and Lora Simmonds (H&H letters April 12) should get their facts straight before they start slinging mud at STAG. Far from encouraging parents to create chaos if permits are withdrawn, we are trying very hard to avert such a result. We have certainly

Peter and Lora Simmonds (H&H letters April 12) should get their facts straight before they start slinging mud at STAG. Far from encouraging parents to create chaos if permits are withdrawn, we are trying very hard to avert such a result. We have certainly never tried to bully councillors, only to work with them to find solutions.

We simply believe that taking away permits is a knee-jerk policy that will not solve the problems.

School run parking permits have already been reduced by 60 per cent with no noticeable reduction in congestion. Further reduction will simply cause a move from controlled to uncontrolled parking with consequent safety problems.

Many of us at STAG have given our time, despite having little to gain personally, to work constructively to help solve the school run problem. We have been working with the schools and council to make progress on alternatives like school buses and there are schemes in their infancy that, if rolled out comprehensively, could make a big impact on the problem.

The assumption of the old council, that taking away permits would result in the spontaneous creation of alternative transport, is patently unrealistic. The new council has a unique opportunity now to work with schools and parents to cultivate such schemes.

STAG is not a motorist group. Most of us walk, cycle and use public transport much of the time or car share extensively. Few of us drive 4x4s. We have argued for better enforcement of parking regulations and for a charge on school run parking permits to fund "green" travel alternatives. Contrary to suggestions that we are promoting child obesity, we all encourage exercise and healthy lifestyles for our children. We urge readers to come and visit any of the Hampstead schools and see if they can find an obese child as we have yet to find one.

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To suggest that the school run is alone responsible for dangerous congested roads is absurd when around three quarters of cars are driven by commuters. We have to work towards solving this problem but also keep it in context.

We will see a lot more progress in solving the school run problem if those who suffer its effects would stop demonising parents who drive and pointing the finger at schools, whose main focus is to educate. I hope they will start putting their energies, as we are doing, into finding solutions that can actually work.

Vicky Fobel, Jackie Orlik

Co-chairs of Schools Travel Action Group (STAG)


To declare as Luca Salice does that state school parents have more of a social conscience than private school parents (H&H letters April 12) is unsubstantiated and prejudiced.

State school parents are less visible than their private school counterparts in campaigning for retaining a safe level of parking permits mainly because they have been heavily discouraged by Camden Council, through their schools, from doing so. The council's own figures show that nearly one third of children in state primary schools in the permits scheme are driven to school.

The school run problem has little to do with social conscience and much more to do with inadequate alternatives and a poor spread of schools in north west London.

We live with our young children in Highgate and would love to be able to walk them to school. We have one child at nursery in NW11 and another in NW3 and in addition I work part-time. Consequently we have no choice but to drive to Hampstead.

We do not sit in a car every day alongside the many other commuters who cause the majority of the traffic out of choice, but there are no other suitable alternatives.

Expecting everyone to walk to school or take public transport is impractical and unrealistic when children are not always able to get places at nearby schools. We cannot wait for and rely on taking several different buses with two young children and expect to arrive on time at each individual destination and also get to work on time.

Many of us feel that cycling with young children on busy London roads with or without designated cycle lanes is just too dangerous.

Many of us cannot afford to live in NW3 where many of the schools are located. Perhaps individuals like Mr and Mrs Simmonds (H&H letters April 12) who are lucky enough to be able to afford to live bang in the middle of NW3, should look outside their box to see how many more parents come from outside the area.


Cholmeley Crescent, N6


Violet Elizabeth Bott seems to have become the model and spokesperson for the school run parents.

Rather than screaming until they are sick, they declare that they will continue to drive and park dangerously and illegally no matter what Camden does to tackle the pollution and gridlock in the Fitzjohn's Avenue area and Belsize during term time (source: STAG deputation material to Camden Executive Environment Sub-Group meeting, February 15).

What is the lesson these parents are teaching their children? Break the law, drive dangerously and give no heed to anyone else, even your classmates.

Younger children learn as much from the family as from school. While citizenship is not a statutory subject for the under 11s, the DfES and the Citizenship Foundation in their Citizenship CPD Handbook (2006) describe how the subject can be introduced to children from nursery years onwards.

Topics include understanding how one's actions affect others and looking at examples of respectful behaviour.

Helen Cordell

Daleham Mews, NW3