A Coleraine primary school has taken action to tackle congestion around the school gates and encourage a healthier lifestyle by encouraging pupils to walk to school.
As the Times revealed last month, DH Christie Memorial Primary School has begun a ‘Walking Bus’ initiative – coinciding with ‘Walk To School’ Month – which sees pupils, staff and parents making the journey to school on foot.
The scheme takes place each Friday when pupils arrive at three collection points around the town and then are led by teachers and volunteer parents to converge along the Ballycairn Road to complete the journey to school.
School-teacher Chris Murdock explained that there have been ‘significant’ traffic problems on the Ballycairn Road, involving parents parking cars around the school.
“Traffic around the school has been an ongoing problem, impacting negatively on parents, pupils and local residents,” he told this newspaper.
“ We hope the Walking Bus will begin to address that. With the support of parents and staff we would love to roll this out to other days too and broaden the project’s impact.
“As more children walk or cycle to school there will also be fewer cars around the school gates, making our school a safer place for everyone. We also know being active on the way to school helps children concentrate better in class.”
Principal, Peter Henry, said the safety of pupils is paramount.
“Our number one concern has to be about the safety of our pupils and the traffic situation at the front of the school has proven to be dangerous. “We want to change this. Parents want to get as close to the door as possible in their cars and some have been parking particularly irresponsibly in recent years.
“ It is hoped that the introduction of the Walking Bus will work alongside other efforts to alleviate the situation.
“We have worked closely with a wide range of other agencies seeking some sort of solution to the problem and this project is just our latest effort. “
The headmaster added: “We would love to see plans for an extended car park and turning circle at the front of the school implemented, but, like so many others, we have fallen victim to the funding crisis within education.”
The implementation of this project coincides perfectly with the school’s new association with Sustrans Active School Travel Programme which aims to increase the number of pupils walking, cycling and scooting to school. The three-year programme works with nearly 200 schools across Northern Ireland and is funded by the Department for Regional Development and the Public Health Agency.