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Published: 11th JUNE 2024

Minister praises teachers having an impact outside the classroom

This Bike Week (10 – 16 June), Northern Ireland's Infrastructure Minister, John O’Dowd, has praised teachers who have been awarded Active Travel accolades by us for encouraging children to walk, scoot or cycle to school.

A man wearing a grey sweatshirt holds up a framed certificate while standing outside a school.

Kieran Kelleher from Glengormley Integrated Primary School was awarded Active School Travel Champion of the Year. Credit: ߣߣƵ

Kieran Kelleher from Glengormley Integrated Primary School and Cathy Park from Ballougry Primary School near Derry have been named Active School Travel Champion of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award winner respectively.

This is for their work helping pupils and colleagues cut the car commute and walk, scoot or cycle to school more often instead.

John O’Dowd highlighted the importance of active travel to promote healthy lifestyles and tackle the climate emergency.

ߣߣƵ came up with the idea for the awards due to the success of the popular Active School Travel programme it delivers throughout Northern Ireland with funding from the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Department for Infrastructure.

Schools asked to nominate staff member

Participating schools were asked to nominate a member of staff who helps the whole school community travel actively and sustainably, through organising regular activities and events and setting an example by walking or cycling themselves.

Glengormley Integrated Primary School nominated Mr Kelleher for his ‘passion, dedication and impact’.

They said:

"This year Mr Kelleher has been driving forward our school’s vision to get more children travelling actively to school.

"He takes assemblies, holds regular competitions and plans and organises our annual Cycle to School and Active Travel Weeks.

"One of the most pleasing outcomes of the activities that Mr Kelleher organises is seeing the pupils who haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to ride a bike getting time to have a go and, by the end of the week, being able to cycle around the playground."

A woman holds a certificate and a trophy with a man in ceremonial robes on each side of her and a female ߣߣƵ active travel officer on the left.

Cathy Park (second right) was awarded the Active School Travel Lifetime Achievement Award for encouraging active travel at Ballougry Primary School near Derry. She's pictured with Alderman Vincent Kearney and Deputy Shravan Jashvantrai Joshi from the Honourable the Irish Society and schools' Active Travel Officer, Donna McFeely. Credit: ߣߣƵ

Through the Active School Travel programme, we have worked with more than 500 schools in the past decade.

We've recorded increasing numbers of children travelling actively to school – and decreasing numbers being driven - in participating schools every year.

In addition to Champion of the Year, an Active School Travel Lifetime Achievement Award was given to a member of school staff who has gone the extra mile, literally, to help pupils and colleagues adopt more active means of transport.

The recipient, Cathy Park, is a long-serving member of staff at Ballougry Primary School, Derry.

In its submission, the school said Cathy is ‘an inspiration to the adults and children’.

'Always conscious of her carbon footprint'

They said:

"[She is] always conscious of her carbon footprint and giving her students and co-workers advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle.

"Ballougry Primary School is located on a small country road with quite a lot of traffic.

"The road can be perilous but that doesn’t deter Cathy Park! Rain, hail, sleet or snow, she will cycle to school and promote active travel.

"Cathy has cycled to work for over 20 years and is retiring soon, she has been an active travel role model to hundreds of students."

Setting a good example

Beth Harding, Active School Travel Manager with ߣߣƵ, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to recognise the great work that both Kieran and Cathy have been doing in their respective schools.

“For children to be able to see someone incorporating active travel into their daily routine is inspirational and sets such a good example to them for the rest of their lives.

“Well done to our worthy winners and to all the staff who make the Active School Travel programme such a resounding success.”

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The Active School Travel programme offers a fun and interactive way for children to get moving more. Blockquote quotation marks
Dr Hannah McCourt, Public Health Agency

Minister for Infrastructure John O’Dowd said:

"Schools play a hugely important role in helping children develop good habits for life.

"If we can instil the benefits of active travel at an early age this will help to give children the confidence and skills to continue to live healthier lifestyles moving forward.

"Importantly, as we deal with the challenges of the climate emergency we need more people to use sustainable travel methods to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

"I therefore want to congratulate Kieran and Cathy, and indeed teachers and staff across the north, for the fantastic work they do to encourage the children in their schools to walk, wheel or cycle to school."

A positive impact on pupils

Dr Hannah McCourt, Senior Health and Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, said:

"The Active School Travel programme offers a fun and interactive way for children to get moving more and incorporate physical activity into their daily routine.

"Being physically active helps to build strong bones, muscles and a healthy heart, supports the development of social skills, and encourages a sense of wellbeing.

"It also benefits children’s mental health and wellbeing.

"It’s great to see the effort Kieran and Cathy have put in to promote active travel in their schools.

"This will no doubt have a positive impact on the pupils and inspire them to build positive habits that will last a lifetime. Well done Kieran and Cathy!"

Find out more about the Active School Travel programme.

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