Douglas is a mixed National School with 46 pupils and 2 teachers, located in the village of Douglas, on the outskirts of Killorglin in County Kerry. The school is situated off a side road, it is not a busy road but the main road most children use to travel to and from school is very busy in the morning and evening. It is a narrow country road with no footpaths and no cycle lanes. There are road signs on two junctions, to tell you where the school is, so it is easy to find.
The school built a car park area a few years back and that is a good size and has an entrance and an exit with road markings to indicate how to use the car park. Before the Travel theme was introduced to the school 90% of pupils travelled to and from school by car even though most pupils live relatively close to the school, 95% take ten minutes or less to travel to school.
Douglas National School first registered for the Green-Schools Programme back in 2000 and have been awarded Four Green Flags to date for their work on Litter and Waste, Energy and Water. They started the An Taisce Green-Schools Travel programme in September 2008.
The Green-Schools Co-ordinator, who also happens to be the principal, was very keen to start the travel programme and the school completed their environmental review in November 2008. The whole school were introduced to the travel theme by looking at the issues of school travel, looking at initiatives available and the presentation given by the Travel Education Officer challenged pupil’s views on travel in general, encouraging pupils to think about making responsible travel choices. The Green-Schools committee looked at the travel survey results and from this the school decided to promote walking to school and started work on raising awareness within their school. Two parents were also part of the Green-Schools committee. Parents were informed of the Travel theme by letter in September, 2008.
Pupils were given a presentation by the Green-Schools Travel Education Officer on Climate Change and Travel and pupils began the programme by designing posters and slogans promoting sustainable travel to school. A Green-Schools notice board was in place, displaying the overall aim of the travel programme, posters received from An Taisce, the school’s action plan was on display, a bar chart showing results of their travel survey, pupils work and posters and various displays were around the school, concentrating on road safety, the safe cross code, transport throughout the ages and the benefits of cycling.
Before their first WOW the school invited their local garda to give a talk on road safety. So on the 11th March, 2009 the school launched their WOW. They made large road signs which they displayed on three major junctions for drivers to see, high visibility vests were given to each pupil and the principal approached the Killorglin Credit Union to supply these. Kerry County Council also gave the school some high visibility vests for the younger pupils. The local garda was invited to drive in the patrol car at the front of the walkers on the main route. Three walking routes were decided upon by the committee, parents and pupils. Parents accompanied the pupils and even the odd dog joined them. The school also had their picture taken for their local newspaper ‘The Kingdom’.
All the pupils walked to school that day and parents walked with them. Before this event 90% of the pupils drove to school so this day was a great success as 100% of pupils walked to school that day. Each class in the school keep a record of walkers each week. As the weather was good some pupils began to walk to school other days in the week. During their WOW Action Day the Travel Education Officer took part in the walk to school, spent the morning with pupils, gave a presentation to parents, then worked with pupils in class on fun curriculum work and pupils got a chance to play the An Taisce Travel snakes and ladders game. Other displays on road safety were also visible and footprints along the main corridor promoting walking to school.
This school took part in ‘Walk To School Week’ and used the ‘Walk Round Ireland’ resource in May, 2009.The school also received cycle training in May for all pupils, part funded by An Taisce and they took part in ‘National Bike Week’ in June. The cycle training was a great success with pupils learning how to maintain their bike and safer cycling techniques. Following the cycle training the school made an application to An Taisce for cycle parking and was successful in receiving 10 cycle parking spaces so held their COW launch during ‘National Bike Week’. 50% of pupils cycled to school for their first COW on 17th June, 2009. The school held the official opening of their cycle parking on their COW launch. Since September, 2009 the school have made a further application to An Taisce for additional cycle parking spaces. Their application was successful.
The Travel Education Officer spent the morning of the COW launch working with each class on road and cycling safety, concentrating on how to wear your cycling helmet, do the M check, looked at the safe cross code, played road safety games with the younger pupils and then led some fun cycling activities with all pupils. Killorglin Credit Union Cycling Club had come to the school the week before their COW launch to also talk about bike maintenance. In October, 2009 the Travel Education Officer spent a morning in the school where she gave a cycling safety presentation and quiz as the pupils of this school do enjoy cycling to school. This school has made a great effort to encourage pupils and parents to walk, cycle or carpool instead of using the private car on the school run.
Douglas National School are promoting walking and cycling to school and for those pupils who do travel to school by car, carpooling. This school has made great progress in reducing congestion outside their school, pupils are happier in the morning when they arrive, are more alert, they enjoy walking and cycling, means less cars on the road, less CO2emissions, allows pupils to make responsible travel choices, allowing them to develop the road sense they need as pedestrians or cyclists and is allowing them to play their part as responsible citizens, caring for their environment. Well done to the Staff, Pupils, and Parents of Douglas National School for all your hard work.