Ennis National School are putting their pupil’s health and consideration for the environment first with their hugely successful ‘Walking Bus’ and ‘Cycling Bus’ initiatives.
The inspiration is gleamed from the Green School’s programme in line with the Smarter Travel theme, which encourages children to walk, cycle or carpool to school. This allies with a recent call amongst Clare Councillors to conduct a survey on the cycling habits of school children in Ennis.
School principal, Brian Troy, describes the ‘Walking Bus’ initiative at Ennis National as “the biggest and most successful in Ireland.” Mirroring this, the school has seen a huge buy in on their ‘Cycling Bus’, with free homework passes offered as an incentive for pupils. The idea was originally proposed by Liz Cullinan and Naomi McMahon with the impetus on trying to get the children moving and out of the car, by both walking or cycling to school.
Mr. Troy labels Ennis National as “a health promoting school” and says that the initiative is “strengthened by a great group of volunteer parents.” Each Friday morning, three parents depart from The Hawthorns Estate along with nine or ten children, cycling along the new laneway put down by the Council leading up to the school. The ‘Walking Bus’ on the other hand, takes place on a daily basis. This initiative facilitates pupils from Junior’s to 6th class, whilst the ‘Cycling Bus’ incorporates those from 1st class up, ensuring that a level of stability can be implemented in getting to school by bike.
Adult supervision and child safety are the primary focus here and Mr. Troy admits that, “even before Covid and since we have come back, the number of bikes were increasing in the bike shed. We spoke about it a lot in the school and in the classes.” The benefits are multitudinous, nurturing an active mindset within the children and fostering a deeper understanding and compassion for the environment.
Mr. Troy continues, “It’s a big factor for their own health and minds, in a time where everyone is spending a lot of their day at home. It’s important that we do use these avenues to keep our minds going and to keep active as well. You do that when you are running, walking or cycling. The other factor then is the environment. We do have over 600 kids at the school here, so there is a lot of traffic coming up to the school and all these initiatives help the kids, telling mom or dad that they do not need to be dropped to school, they can walk or cycle. There’s less traffic and less fumes. That all helps as well.”
“It’s a big testament that we will keep going all year round even in the midst of the winter when people would rather sit in the car and drive up to the school. A lot of the parents and the kids dress for the weather and make their way by bike or by walking”.