- HomeRun Team
“We’ve seen a massive shift out of cars - on some days that’s as high as 60%.”
Q&A with Lewis Hayward, head at University College School Junior, an independent school in Hampstead, London. They joined HomeRun in 2018.
Photo: UCS website What led you to introduce HomeRun?
We had a lot of people driving to the school, and I wanted to reduce it for environmental reasons. Our catchment area isn’t that big, but, after we implemented HomeRun, we realised a lot of them were driving in from under two miles away. Driving in was something that had evolved, and had become part of the culture.
What are the main benefits you’ve seen?
A massive shift out of cars - on some days that’s as high as 60%. There are some exceptions, but the default is that it’s culturally unacceptable to drive the school run.
I definitely think it has built the community amongst people further away from the school. I couldn’t give you an estimate, but I can see families coming in together, who are completely unconnected. There are undoubtedly families who have become close and friendly because they live near each other.
How have you used the data?
HomeRun really helps give you a firm hand on the data. We had been going great guns, then the pandemic hit, and a certain amount of people returned to their cars because of covid/public transport fears. But the data showed me that it wasn't as bad as we thought - everyone who lived close enough was still trying to walk. Without the data I wouldn’t have known that.
"Part of the reason people are using cars very rarely, if at all, is pester power.” Lewis Hayward, Headteacher
How did you build parents’ engagement with HomeRun?
Part of the reason people are using cars very rarely, if at all, is pester power. We devised a scheme where our pupils get points each day for journeys that don’t involve cars (we include electric cars). When they get a certain amount of points they get a badge in assembly, and they can work their way up through different badges. Then there are additional rewards for badge holders, like home clothes days. The children are very switched on and incentivised.
Another thing about HomeRun that is really helpful is overcoming the fears of parents who are worried about letting their children go to school without them. They can track the journey live and see where their child is, it’s very reassuring. So children are allowed to walk in with their mobile phone, as long as they hand it in at reception.
You will get some resistance from parents; yet another platform, yet another thing to think about. It’s not that everyone has accepted it, but by and large it has proved very popular.
What advice would you give to other schools?
We use HomeRun as an instant messaging service too. Any staff member can put a message out to the whole school without coming through the school office. So parents check it regularly. It’s good that it’s a closed loop, so no issues of people being worried about their details leaving the school community.
In addition to HomeRun, to make it really successful, you have to have the cultural shift. I’m pestering parents quite regularly in my weekly newsletter. My views are very well known, particularly on the environment and travel, and that’s made an impact.
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