Two Northern Ireland schools are celebrating finishing in the UK-wide top 10 for small primary schools in the Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel 2023.
Pupils from Dunseverick Primary School in Bushmills and St Joseph’s Primary School in Drumquin were placed 7th and 9th respectively out of a total of 773 schools for the number of active travel journeys made by their school communities between March 20th and 31st 2023.
The popular annual event co-ordinated by the walking and cycling charity encourages children to make the daily journey to and from school by walking or wheeling by bike or scooter. Competitions within schools and between schools sees many schoolchildren, their families and staff take on the challenge, with prizes awarded for various achievements.
In the large primary schools category, three Northern Ireland schools were in the UK top 100. St Mary’s PS, Newcastle ranked 36th, Hardy Memorial Primary in County Armagh was 95th and Braidside Integrated PS, Ballymena was 98th out of 1,026 schools.
All three local secondary schools which took part – Killicomaine Junior High School in Portadown, Strathearn School, Belfast and Friends School in Lisburn – sit comfortably in the UK top 60.
In total, a record-breaking 225 schools in Northern Ireland signed up to the challenge this year, joining over 2,700 other schools across the UK to contribute to the 2.6million active journeys to schools all undertaken over the two-week time span.
Beth Harding, Active School Travel programme manager, said:
“We are absolutely thrilled with the success of Big Walk and Wheel 2023. It proves how popular active travel to school is with pupils, their families and school staff. It allows the children to put into practice all the skills and confidence they build when taking part in Active School Travel Programme activities with our officers throughout the year and gives them the opportunity to develop them in real-life situations.
“It reduces ‘school run’ traffic, which accounts for one in five cars on the roads in the mornings, making the commute for essential drivers less stressful and it is enormously beneficial to everyone’s health, cutting out engine idling and emissions which make transport the second highest pollutant in Northern Ireland.
“Helping make it possible for children to choose active school journeys to and from school is a win-win for everyone so it’s vital that they continue to be given the skills through our Active School Travel programme as well as the infrastructure to allow safe routes to schools.
“We’re calling for the programme to be extended beyond this school year to enable even more pupils and schools to be supported to make active school journeys.
“We also once again make a call for School Streets to be introduced in Northern Ireland, similar to those in the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which limit traffic in the vicinity of schools during drop-off and pick-up times to make it safe enough for all children to walk, scoot, wheel or cycle to school.”
|Photo caption: Pupils from Tobermore Primary School were among thousands across NI and the UK to take part in the biggest ever Big Walk and Wheel 2023 by walking and cycling charity Sustrans. Picture: Cathal McOscar Photography.|