St. Ernan’s National School is a primary school of approx 120 pupils with six teachers, located on the outskirts of the village of Delvin in Co. Westmeath.
Step 1: Green-Schools Committee
To elect Green-School Committee members; students from second class up, were invited to give a short speech at the whole school assembly as to why they wanted to be on the committee. A number of the students delivered their speech in travel-themed fancy dress as the Halloween fancy dress was held the same day. Such was the dedication and enthusiasm of all those who gave a speech that they were all invited to be on the committee for the Travel theme.
Step 2: Environmental Review
To establish what the situation was in the school with regards to how people travelled to and from school, a baseline travel survey was carried out by a Green-Schools Travel Officer. The results showed that 80% of the pupils were reliant on the car to get them to and from school. Only 15% walked to and from school which was disappointing considering the number of children that live within 1km of the school and that the village and school area is well served with footpaths. Only 1% cycled and no one was using the Park ‘n’ Stride option. On a positive front, of those who travelled by car, 38% said that they carpooled either to or from school. The Committee also carried out a traffic survey in the car park at drop off and collection time. They saw that the car park was very congested at these times and that most of the cars had only one passenger. They also saw that a number of cars that were travelling from the same housing estate were not full. So the opportunity to carpool was there. It was also discovered that a number of the children who travelled to school by car actually lived in the village and could walk instead.
A walkability audit was also carried out by a number of students on the Committee accompanied by Mrs Forde and Green-School’s Travel Officer Caterina Macnamara. The route from the school, through the village to Castleview estate was audited. Students were asked to look out for positives and negatives along the route. A report was then written up on the findings.
Step 3: Action Plan
In March 2015 the school started having a WOW day every Friday with a walking bus from the church. The golden boot trophy was awarded to the class with the biggest percentage of those walking, carpooling and scooting. Other initiatives on the committee’s Action Plan including cycle training from Westmeath Sports Partnership which was funded by An Taisce, Green-Schools Poster competitions, workshops from the Road Safety Authority and having travel themed school tours.
Step 4: Monitoring & Evaluation
To monitor and evaluate their progress, tallies were kept every Friday on the WOW days. The Green-Schools Travel Officer also carried out the official travel surveys twice a year during the two years of the programme. These surveys showed great progress. Walking has climbed from 16% to over 60%. Cycling was up from 0% to 7%. Car use has dropped from 80% to 24% and almost half of those travelling by car are now carpooling. And Park ‘n’ Stride has risen by 5%.
Steps 5 & 7: Curriculum Work & Green Code
To further persuade people of the green travel message a Travel Day of Action was held. A car-free-zone was declared outside the school, teachers focused on travel related lessons in the classroom during the day such as mapping, calculating distances and the history of travel. There were also fun events for all students during the week such as a green-schools quiz and a travel themed treasure hunt. There were also colouring and poster competitions and the Green Code for Travel was chosen by the committee.
Step 6: Informing & Involving
The committee members help to promote green travel in their classrooms and they also visit the classrooms of the younger pupils to spread the message to them. They also talk about green school actions and progress at weekly whole school assemblies. The Green-Schools’ notice board also helps to inform the pupils and parents. Letters and newsletters home let parents know of the different Green-Schools initiatives and progress of the programme.