A thousand South Tyneside youngsters are taking a walk across Europe – without even leaving the borough.
The ‘virtual’ trek is part of an innovative project aimed at tackling childhood obesity and improving health and fitness levels.
Pupils from 30 borough primary schools have been given pedometers which measure the number of steps they take, both inside and outside school time.
They then log the number of steps on a website which electronically charts how far the class has travelled.
The system marks out the steps on a map along the route of the Jarrow March to London and then around Europe, taking in all the major cities, including Paris and Berlin.
At the Temple Park Centre in South Shields on Wednesday, July 15, the borough school which has “travelled” the furthest is to be revealed.
Susan Beetlestone, assistant headteacher at Whitburn Village Primary School, said: “The 32 children in Year 4 have been given a pedometer and each day they come in and they fill in how far they’ve walked on the computer and we track on the map how far they’ve got to.
“It started in Newcastle and they have then travelled to London and across cities throughout Europe.”
Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, said: “We know that we have got a challenge with overweight children in the borough, our data is showing that. They are more overweight at the end of primary than they are at the beginning of primary, so it made perfect sense to put an intervention in place to get the children interested enough for them to be conscious of being more active.”
Moira Smith, the authority’s lead member for health and wellbeing, added: “We know that there is a significant rise in the number of children who become overweight between the ages of five and 11. This project is, therefore, crucial in encouraging our young people to adopt a more active lifestyle which will help to keep them healthier and fitter.”
Year 4 pupil Abigail Ellis, nine, said: “Every day we have the pedometer on and we walk around the yard and the field. I walk more now than I did before.”
Fellow pupil Luke Hall, also nine, added: “I have found it a lot of fun and we are getting fit too.”
The project has been funded by InspiredSpaces, South Tyneside Council’s local education partner which has built new schools in the borough.
For further information and tips on how to improve your health by taking more exercise and eating better go to www.change4lifesouthtyneside.co.uk