YOUNGSTERS are being encouraged to dump the car to walk or cycle to school as part of a campaign to improve children’s fitness.

The Move Everybody Get Active (Mega) Motion campaign is aimed at children in Darlington and South Durham.

The scheme organisers want children from 42 schools to ignore the car each week and be more active on the way to school on Mega Fridays.

Children are to be asked to walk or cycle to school and if the car must be used they should walk for the final five minutes of the journey.

Pupils who do not use the car to get to school each Mega Friday can earn two Mega Minutes and there's one Mega Minute awarded for car sharing.

The aim of the children is to collect 60 Mega Minutes to become a Mega Hero.

Children will also receive bronze, silver or gold awards according to how many times they do not use the car to get to school.

Wendy Gill, headteacher of Escomb Primary School, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said: “This is a fun campaign.

“It is getting across a very serious message that walking or taking another sustainable form of transport to school even just once a week can improve health and help the environment.”

The Mega Friday sessions started on November 9 and they will run until July 5 next year.

Coun Andy Scott, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for health, is backing the campaign.

He said: "With childhood obesity coming under increasing scrutiny it is essential that we begin to change habits from an early age.

“By encouraging children to walk or cycle to and from school offers an ideal opportunity to take in some of their daily 60 active minutes.”