St Joseph’s GNS is a National School in Mountmellick with 290 pupils. The school is at the edge of the town and has access both at the front and the back of the school. There is enough car parking at the back, but despite this there is a lot of congestion on the access roads in the morning and afternoon.
The school is an enthusiastic Green School and received its third Green Flag in June 2008. Teresa McCrohan, the Green Schools coordinator and the committee were keen to move forward on the Travel theme immediately and were thinking of a Walking Bus as one of the options.
The review showed that most girls in the school live in the various estates that make up the town of Mountmellick. The estates are at different distances from the school with some having only one access road. This means that children living in the back of the estate would have to walk a serious distance to get out onto the main route to school. However most routes to school had footpaths all the way, which made walking a real possibility. The Travel Survey, carried out in October 2008 showed that 59% of the girls were brought to school by car, 33% walked and 1% cycled to school. Although 33% was higher than the national average of 24%, there was substantial room for improvement.
The school decided to start with raising awareness through a chat with the committee, a Climate Change presentation to various classes, a meeting with parents and a poster- and slogan competition.
In January 2009 the first WOW day was organised and despite icy and slippery roads 140 girls walked to school and put their footprints on the wall in the assembly hall. The following week the number had grown to 174 and continued to rise. Also a growing number of children started taking part in Park & Stride on a weekly basis.
On national WOW day in May 253 girls walked to school and many girls had also started walking on other days. When the initiative needed some encouragement the Golden Boot and the Walk around Ireland were introduced.
The Travel Survey, carried out in May 2009, showed that now 65% of the girls walk to school, 4% cycle and 31% travel to school by car. The achievements were celebrated with fun and Travel games on Sports day. There had always been a number of enthusiastic cyclists in the school and in September 2009 cycle training was carried out, while subsequently the school received cycle parking funded by An Taisce. This definitely increased the already previously existing enthusiasm for cycling.