The south Antrim school, which was one of the first six schools across Northern Ireland to achieve the Sustrans NI Gold Award in January 2020, hosted a special assembly on Wednesday, March 22 to commemorate receiving the charity’s Gold Ambassador School status this year.
Commenting on the accolade, the Main Street school’s principal, Mrs Lisa Brown said: “We achieved our Bronze Status in 2015, Silver Status award in 2016, Gold in 2020 and are now delighted to have achieved Gold Ambassador status in 2023.
"To earn this award, we had to commit to ensuring that our school actively encouraged and promoted Active Travel to/from school. We started many initiatives; competitions throughout each year to count how many ‘active’ journeys we could achieve, ‘Bling up your Bike’ (Road Safety link); Neon Day; and prior to Covid-19 we also started a walking bus to school, something which we hope to further develop in the Summer term.
"Our families/children fully embraced these challenges and they are now fully embedded in our school ethos.”
Due to the school’s rural location, around 50 per cent of students still travel to class in a car, however, they are encouraged to walk the remainder of their journey from a safe location.
Mrs Brown explained: “Approximately 50 per cent would still use their car to travel to school. In the context of our school and its rural nature, some children have no other option but to use a car.
"However, we encourage them to be dropped off at further safe points and walk the remainder to school. Our Winter Active Challenge recorded 427 active journeys to school over a period of two weeks.”
The school has noticed a number of benefits for the pupils since becoming involved in programmes operated by Sustrans, with Mrs Brown keen to encourage other schools across the borough to carry out active travel schemes.
She added: “Children present as more ‘ready to learn’. Fresh air and physical activity prior to lessons certainly gets brains working.
"This is an excellent programme, with great support from Sustrans. Throughout the year we promote active travel through different initiatives and assemblies to encourage the children and highlight the benefits of active travel to health and the environment.
"We have made the idea of active travel a continual focus in Doagh PS and as such we have seen a huge jump in the number of families who travel to and from school in an active and healthy way. It is heartening to see our school bike shed filled with bikes and scooters.
"We believe that staying active is greatly important to the development of the children and it also helps to reduce the traffic around our school. Some classes take part in the ‘Daily Mile’ and as a whole school, we walk around the village to wave at and say hello to the surrounding community.”
Praising parents and guardians for supporting the school’s active travel effort, Mrs Brown said: “Thank you. Together we can make our children physically and emotionally fitter as well as doing our part to reduce traffic and emissions. It’s a win win!”