STUDENTS in Skipton are taking the initiative when it comes to improving the environment and safety around their school.

The Skipton Girls High School team signed up to North Yorkshire County Council’s Youth Travel Ambassadors (YTA) programme, run by the authority’s sustainable travel team, and next week will pitch their ‘Travel Made Easier’ ideas in a Dragons’ Den-style event at County Hall.

They are one of three schools taking part, and if they are successful, they could win up to £500 to put their plans into action.

The ambassadors have developed proposals to encourage fellow students to consider modes of travel other than the car, including ‘park and stride’ which they hope will be taken up by other schools in the town.

Group leader, Larissa Wanty said: “We were tasked with making travel for students a lot more eco-friendly and active and safer. We first collected data through surveys and came up with a number of solutions based on the data we collected.

“We went about trying to solve some of the problems we identified in the most realistic way that we could and have created a number of solutions that we will present to the council. If we receive funding, we can have a big impact on how students travel to school and in future roll that out to the whole of Skipton.”

Using the slogan, ‘Travel Made Easier’, the team will talk about its plans for ‘park and stride’ sites where parents could park some distance away, with students walking the last part to school and rewarded with a ‘walkers breakfast’.The team is also preparing walking route maps and plans to run a social media campaign aimed at persuading their fellow students to use more sustainable transport.

Elora Wanty said: “We found that most people took the car or bus to school, which isn’t that environmentally friendly or active, and most people would prefer to walk, but they can’t because they live too far away.”

And Vivienne Clark added: “There also isn’t sufficient infrastructure to make it convenient for them. We decided that our proposals would be very good solutions, because they persuade not only the students at our school but also the wider area to join in this scheme.”

Deputy head Fiona McMillan said the school had got involved in the project mainly because many of its students thought what was happening with the climate is very important. “Within school we already have a plastic-free group and an eco group and we felt to start looking at travel and how our students come to school fitted with that really nicely,” she said.

“This fitted in with what young people want and believe. Also, the way the project is designed it becomes the students’ project, because they are doing the research, they’re working out what the problem is, they’re working out what the solution is. The fact that there are opportunities to do presentations and take it further than the school setting is really important. They are developing lots of skills throughout the project.”

YTA is being offered as part of the county council’s Open North Yorkshire sustainable travel programme in which students aged 11 to 19 were invited to become advocates for active, safe travel to and from school, promoting options such as cycling, walking or taking the bus and looking at pollution and congestion at the school gates.

Ben Stokes, of the sustainable travel team, said: “The students have been coming up with their own campaigns. These can focus on anything from reducing air pollution to cutting traffic congestion and encouraging more walking and cycling on the school run. All these things benefit the environment and people’s health and activity levels. It has been fantastic to work with such competent students and we’re really excited to see how the campaigns develop.”