Funding for the tracks at the schools in Shropshire to help children stay fit, have come from the Government's 'sugar tax'.
Staff at Shropshire Council, WSP and Kier – partners in the Shropshire Highways alliance - are working together to ensure they can get them built within budget.
Construction of the first track is underway at Criftins Primary School near Ellesmere, with the remaining 14 tracks due to be completed by the end of March 2019.
They will be tracks constructed from 1500 tonnes of recycled Shropshire roads. In each case the track will be made of unwanted materials from road maintenance work being carried out close to the school.
In addition, a number of improvements to each school’s facilities will also be carried out while the tracks are being constructed, including creating/maintaining forest schools, maintaining school gardens, refreshing playgrounds, repairing raised plant beds, and repainting car park markings.
In total, 4000 children are set to benefit from the project, which will enable each child to walk or run a total of 285km in each academic year, at a cost of just £1.30 per pupil per year.
The idea for the tracks came about earlier this year when Shropshire Council received £226,572 from the Healthy Pupils Capital Funds funded through the ‘sugar tax’ grant. Of the total grant, £105,000 was set aside to provide school running tracks – to help children meet the ‘Daily Mile challenge’ to walk or run a mile every day.
Schools were invited to bid for a share of this funding, and fifteen submitted bids for all-weather running tracks – though the specification varied for each school.
With just £7000 available for each track Shropshire Council asked their engineering consultant WSP to consider how the tracks could be provided within the available budget.
The company decided to offer its services for free through the WSP employee benefit scheme, which allows each employee two paid volunteering days per year. Shropshire Council’s term contractor Kier and their wider supply chain, including Tarmac and L&R, followed WSP’s example by offering their services and materials at cost with no additional multipliers or mark-ups.
Savings were also identified by standardising the specification for the 15 tracks, allowing materials to be purchased in bulk at lower costs.
The proposed width of the tracks was increased to allow larger machinery to be used in construction, which will result in increased output and reduces the time needed to construct each track. The wider tracks can also be used for cycling, and by wheelchair users.
Further savings were identified by agreeing to tarmac surfacing for all the tracks. This durable and weather-resistant material will also reduce the need for, and cost of, future maintenance
Project manager Ben Corfield from WSP, said: “The whole project is an example of how collaborative working, intricate planning and financial astuteness can achieve the greatest level of benefits for the maximum number of children.
“Constructing all 15 tracks before the end of March will be quite a challenge but we’re confident that we can do it. Linking to the highway maintenance programme and favourable winter weather conditions will be key factors. We can manage the former, but have our fingers crossed for good weather.”
Nick Bardsley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The schools who will be receiving the tracks have embraced the project and are looking forward to realising and assessing the health and educational learning benefits they will bring for their pupils, both in terms of physical and mental well-being.”
Other schools to get the tracks are Oakmeadow, Bayston Hill, Church Preen, Cockshutt CE, Cressage, Highley Community Primary School, Kinnerley, Market Drayton Infant and Junior Schools, Lower Heath, Shifnal, Harlescott Junior School
St George’s Junior School, Shrewsbury, Wem and Woore.