Ian McMillan's "poetry in motion" at Rotherham school

Published Thursday, 9th February 2017
Ian and Rachel
Headteacher, Rachel Colquhoun and Ian McMillan

The benefits of walking or cycling short distances, rather than driving, have been emphasised by local poet Ian McMillan to Rotherham school children.

The Barnsley bard this week visited Bramley Grange Primary school in Rotherham, where they have been recognised for their work to encourage children to cycle or walk to school.

He demonstrated the benefits of walking by performing some of his morning stroll tweet poetry in assembly to 330 children.

He said: “Each morning, I get up early and go for a stroll through my village. I walk to the newsagent, then down a long hill and up a steeper hill and back home. It takes me about 40 minutes and I tweet about the stroll as soon as I get in. I try to find something new every day from the same mile and a bit. And the challenge is for me to get it all written in less than 140 characters.

“I would actively encourage everyone to do the same. It wakes me up, keeps me fit and gets my brain in gear for the day. So it has been great to inspire the kids at Bramley Grange to think about doing something similar and making up their own poems about their active routes to school.”

Rotherham Council is encouraging people to get out of cars and instead think about alternative methods of travel for journeys of under two miles.

Nationally a third of car journeys are under two miles, and it is no different in Rotherham, but they create more pollution per mile because vehicles use more fuel when the engine is cold.

The Active Travel initiative highlights how such a change can improve health, wealth and reduce carbon emissions.

Parents are also being encouraged to leave the car at home for the school run. This follows international research which suggests children who walk or cycle to school have improved concentration, cognitive function and mood.

Mr McMillan presented the school with a Bronze award as part of the Modeshift STARS National Awards Scheme, which is a national award scheme to recognise schools that have demonstrated excellence in supporting active travel.

Year 5 pupils then spent the morning with him writing their own walking poems using their school travel journeys as inspiration.

Headteacher Rachel Colquhoun said: “It has been a huge boost to us to have Ian McMillan come to our school to work with our pupils like this. By promoting sustainable travel in our school community we aim to improve pupil safety by easing congestion at the school gate, support pupils in achieving a healthier lifestyle and help pupils gain independence. We are thrilled to have our school recognised with this award; it is a testament to everyone’s hard work.”

In the past year the pupils have worked with the Council’s Road Safety and Active Travel teams covering scooter skills training and road safety sessions.

Bramley Grange is the first school in Rotherham to receive the Modeshift STARS award and much work is underway to encourage more schools to get involved.

Cllr Denise Lelliott, Cabinet Member with responsibility for transportation and sustainable travel at Rotherham Council added: “This is a great scheme and one we fully endorse. Giving children the best start in life is a key corporate priority for us and what better way to demonstrate this than by helping them not only become more fit, which will ultimately help them live longer and healthier lives, but also helping them understand why they should use sustainable forms of transport.”