SWEAT IT OFF- Part 2:
The venue is one of Australia’s most exclusive private schools. It’s mid February and Term 1 is in full swing at school. The time is 3.10pm, the peak time for parents to pick up their children from school.
The afternoon pick-up system is quite an amazing sight for the uninitiated. There is a driveway, that is about 80 metres in length which runs off a public road down towards a round-a-bout.
The afternoon pick-up normally runs from 3.00pm-3.30pm, in which time most the student population of the junior school will be picked up. Several children will stay back at school for another hour or so for sports training or maybe to participate in an accomplishment activity such as chess or art. Some children will head to the schools’ after school care facility until their parents or babysitters pick them up later.
Cars are already queuing from the school round-a-bout, at the bottom of the driveway, up to and along the public road. Parents will typically wait 5-10 minutes in the queue before reaching their child at the pick-up area by the round-a-bout- generally a short wait and a good opportunity to have a quick chat on the mobile phone, re-apply the make-up or possibly read a snippet from the latest Oprah magazine.
The most physical exercise that each parent/nanny/babysitter/chauffeur will do whilst sitting in their car will be a slight shift in weight from the left glut muscle to their right glut muscle, or possibly some slight finger exercise when sending messages on their phones or turning the page of their magazines. Hardly enough to break into a sweat, especially in the high-powering air conditioning of their BMWs and Mercedes.
Each family must display the name of all the children in their family on the windscreen of their car. This name is shown in the form of a large sign, which the school provides for each family at the start of each school year.
The school employs several people to operate two-way radios from the driveway. The first person stands at the top of the driveway, just inside the gate, and reads the name of the children from the windscreen of the car. This radio message goes directly to the announcer who is in the control room, which overlooks the round a bout. This control room is quite similar to a control tower at an airport. The announcer, who is usually a teacher on a duty, then reads the names of the children into a microphone, which is connected to speakers in every room in the school.
Once the children hear their name being called, they make their way immediately down to the pick-up area by the round a bout. It’s an average of a 30 second walk for each child to reach this area, generally walking up or down a few stairs. Whilst the child is making their way to the pick-up area, their car is slowly making its way down the driveway, sitting patiently in the queue of cars.
A second person is employed by the school to stand at the round a bout to read the names of the children again if the children haven’t arrived at the pick-up area. The car at the front of the queue pulls in to a special pick-up zone on the side of the round a bout.
Other people employed by the school, usually GAP students from overseas, will accompany the children to their car, open the door for them and place their bags in the car, ensure the children’s seat belts are fastened, then close the door (all with a cheery smile of course) before the car drives back up the driveway and on to public road.
The children are often driven straight home, where the 10 metre walk from the car to the front door may be the most exercise they’ll do for the rest of the day.
This pick-up system is an example of just how much we have come to rely on the car in the 21st century. These pick-up systems are becoming more popular in schools in modern times. The days of children walking, running, skateboarding, riding scooters or bike riding to and from school are quickly diminishing.
The days of parents parking up to 1km away from the school, walking to the child’s classroom to have a quick chat with some other parents or the teacher, are also diminishing. As the years progress, people and the communities in which they live are becoming more reliant on cars.
With much publicized cases of child abductions, molestations and murders in recent times, many parents have been scared out of allowing their children the freedom to create their own modes of transport, e.g. allowing them to walk, run, ride, etc to school or anywhere else they wish to travel. Unfortunately, most people are more afraid of exercising than the remote threat of some creep hurting their child. Many people also claim they do not have the time to transport their children by any other mode than by motor vehicle. The fact is that short trips of 5km or less in city and suburban areas are usually completed by non-motor vehicle means.
The average Australian school may not have this fancy type of pick-up system, with virtual slaves to open car doors for children, but most Australian children are still picked up from school. Most parents park as close to the school as possible and save those precious legs and feet from those extra yards.
What can we do about this over-use of cars? Tune in to my next blog in a few days