St. Joseph’s Primary School is located in Ballinrobe town beside the old convent and Ballinrobe Community College. There are approximately 250 pupils and 17 teachers in the school. The school building was first established in 1970 and the new building was finished in September 2008. There are impressive indoor and outdoor recreation areas for students. The Green Schools Coordinator is Sighle Hughes, a full time teacher in the school. St. Joseph’s received their third Green Flag for Water in May 2007. The school has also won awards for taking part in “Active Week” in 2008.
Traffic is heavy because St. Joseph’s is situated near the centre of the town and beside Ballinrobe Community College. At the beginning of the school term, September 2008, a very small number of pupils walked to school. The majority of pupils travel to school by bus (approximately 70) and the remainder come by car. Three separate buses bring traveller children to school – this is an incentive by the Department of Education. The coordinator identified that many cars made short journeys to school and this could be prevented.
Since January 2009 St. Joseph’s, in cooperation with parents, established four walking buses which take place every Wednesday and are known as WOW days (Walk on Wednesday). The numbers participating are increasing every week and the school have combined this day with the Park 'n' Stride initiative so that pupils who live too far from the town can participate in walking. All teachers and staff drive to school so there is potential for carpooling. Cycling doesn’t seem to be promoted or take place in the school because there are issues with safety.
Work Undertaken to Date:
Set up Green Schools Committee. The committee is representative of the entire school and consists of 12 members. Pupils were chosen from junior to sixth class.
“Sounds on Your Journey to School” Workshop with Junior, Senior, First and Second classes, facilitated by Eva Gannon, Travel Education Officer.
“Climate Change and Your Journey to School” workshop with Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth classes, facilitated by Travel Education Officer. All pupils received the introduction to the new Travel theme and participated in the workshops. Students were given follow up activities to complete.
Environmental Review complete – results were displayed in school foyer. Bar charts from every classroom were displayed and juniors created their own giant bar chart using car, walking and bus shapes. Results showed that most pupils travelled to school by car, second was bus and third was walking.
Letters were sent to parents asking them to join the Green Schools committee and asking for their cooperation during the Green Schools Travel theme. This request was also posted in the school foyer beside the Environmental review display.
The Action Plan was complete with clear targets. It is posted on the Green Schools notice board. St. Joseph’s started planning and preparing for the Walking Bus and WOW day. Letters were sent to parents to volunteer in the walking bus. These requests were also posted onto the notice board and front door of school.
Wednesday 4th of February: Launch of Walking Bus and WOW day. Four different walking buses were in place. Each bus comes from a different location. 2 ParknStride areas were identified, one in Cornmarket parking area and one in the carpark beside the local business Burke’s car sales. Lots of parents turned up to volunteer in the initiative.
St. Joseph’s ran a Poster Competition to promote sustainable travel to school. Winners were picked from every class and their posters were displayed in the school foyer for all students and visitors to see. The school distributed prizes to each winner. St. Joseph’s submitted an article into “The Mayo News” about the walking buses and their Travel theme which was published on 24th of February.
On Wednesday 4th of March, the Green Schools committee, including 12 students, 2 parents and the Travel Education Officer, completed the “Walkability Audit”. Pupils assessed how pedestrian friendly the route to school was. The group walked and inspected all the routes which the walking buses travel on. A de-briefing took place after the exercise and the committee were assigned tasks to help improve the safety of these routes.
St. Josephs Primary School prepared for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They focused on raising awareness and informing the community about the importance of sustainable travel. They designed their own floats and costumes with the help of the Green Schools coordinator and art teacher. Senior pupils designed mini banners promoting walking and reducing your carbon footprint.
The walking buses are increasing in size every week. The coordinator is planning on including another day in addition to Wednesdays. Senior pupils completed a “Walk in my Shoes” project. The project is based on how children live and travel all over the world. The project is displayed along the corridors so visitors, teachers and pupils can learn about their work. Monitoring is taking place every Wednesday to assess the numbers travelling to school in a sustainable way.
Participated in Walk To School Week – walking bus took place every day this week. 160 out of 250 walked or travelled in a sustainable manner. On Friday 29th May, St. Joseph’s completed their Day of Action with workshops and games based on the Travel theme - the entire school participated! The Travel Survey Round 2 was completed and returned to Dublin before the deadline.
September to December 2009:
Re-started the four walking buses. The coordinator developed a rota until December 2009. The school held a special WOW day for Halloween and pupils had a fancy dress walking bus. This raised a lot of awareness and got into the local papers.
Opportunity for Success
St. Joseph’s Primary school, so far, has been very successful in their Travel theme. The pupils, teachers and parents are willing to reduce the numbers of cars coming to school. The walking buses and Park 'n' Stride initiatives take place every Friday and the number of participants increase every week. A second WOW day will be established in the 2010. Teachers should be encouraged to carpool when possible on these days also. The coordinator and principal have noticed a reduction in the amount of cars coming to school on Fridays and there is less congestion outside the school gates. Momentum and success is achieved by parents showing their commitment and enthusiasm by volunteering every week.
St. Joseph’s Primary school has progressed very quickly in the Green Schools Travel programme. By
raising awareness and making a community effort initiatives have been a success. Four walking buses
come to school and two Park 'n' Stride locations are in use. The incentives are very popular and pupils and parents are eager to do more. They recognise the health and safety benefits achieved from walking to school in addition to reducing congestion and their carbon footprints. The coordinator Sighle Hughes has shown great commitment and has been very influential in St. Joseph’s achievements in the Travel programme.
St. Joseph's National School in Ballinrobe celebrated the first anniversary of its 'Walking Bus’ environmental initiative, which was implemented as part of the Green School's programme. Children walk to school every Friday morning accompanied by supervisors from four pick-up points or ‘bus stops' around the town. The initiative greatly reduces the amount of traffic outside school gates and the children love participating. Last week the children walked infancy dress; which one townsperson described as "a wonderful sight to behold”. The Green Schools co-ordinator at the school. Sighle Hughes told the Western People that the school is expecting to have its green flag renewed for the fifth time by An Taisce. "As a school we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our parents who have volunteered as supervisors and those parents who are on the green school committee. Without them this initiative would not be possible."