New school running tracks
Fifteen Shropshire primary schools are to get brand new running tracks made from recycled roads, thanks to the government’s ‘sugar tax’ and to staff from Shropshire Council, WSP and Kier – partners in the Shropshire Highways alliance. Construction of the first track began at Criftins Primary School near Ellesmere this week, with the remaining 14 tracks due to be completed by the end of March 2019.
The tracks will be constructed from a total of 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 as the tracks are being constructed, including the creation/maintenance of forest schools, maintenance of school gardens, refreshing playgrounds, 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 Fund (HPCF), which is 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. WSP decided to offer their 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 results in increased output and reduces the time needed to construct each track. The wider tracks also allow them to 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.
WSP are also working with Shropshire Council’s highways team and Kier - along with Kier’s supply chain to provide the most significant savings in costs and efficiency by linking the construction of the tracks to the existing Shropshire Highways maintenance contract.
Work at each school will coincide with highways maintenance work nearby, enabling the material to be quickly and easily transported to the school.
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 January 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!”
Phil Wilson, service delivery manager – learning and skills, said:
“The schools who will be receiving the tracks have positively 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.”
Access to a big supply chain and linking to the maintenance contract will mean a number of improvements to school facilities can also be carried out when the tracks are constructed, including:
- Creation/maintenance of forest schools
- Maintenance of school gardens
- Clearance and repair of raised plant beds
- Re-applying car park road markings and lines
- Refreshing play grounds
It is vital that when maintenance works are taking place on the highway network, access must be granted to the closest school requiring a track so that the risk of double-handling and storing recycled material is mitigated.