St Catherine’s National School in Bishopstown was proud to host Ireland’s first Healthy School Streets event on Friday, September 20th 2019. The Healthy School Streets scheme aims to create healthy, safe, and playful environments around schools. It should also reduce traffic gridlock near schools. A block of Bishopstown Avenue was closed from 8-10am so that 110 of the girls from the school can play in the street. Community coaches from Cork Local Sports Partnership and parent volunteers will organise running races and giant games. Girls not lucky enough to play in the street will have a special morning in the yard with parachute games and a chalk extravaganza. The Healthy School Streets event is part of the celebration of European Mobility Week.
The Parents Association organised the morning with help from the Cork Local Sports Partnership, Playful Cork City and Cork Healthy Cities. Families were encouraged to walk, cycle, scoot, take the bus or park and stride into school on Friday, September 20th 2019. These activities gave everyone a bit of exercise, improved the air quality and congestion around the school and created a fun morning for the school girls.
‘The Parents Association at St Catherine’s is excited about this initiative. We hope to demonstrate to parents that in many cases it’s more fun and quicker to walk or cycle, even for the last few blocks into school, rather than dropping children to the door of the school. It’s a small bit of exercise and often a great opportunity for parent-child chats. If more parents did so, it would reduce congestion around school and reduce air pollution. We apologise to local residents for inconveniencing them, but believe that the long-term effect will be lower traffic levels and a healthier environment for everyone, and especially the children,‘ said Ruth McLauchlan, treasurer of the Parents Association.
In addition to having fun on Friday, the girls and families at St Catherine’s will also be acting in a climate-friendly way. To help parents think about travel and climate, Dr Dean Venables, School of Chemistry and Environmental Research Institute, UCC, will give a public talk at St Catherine’s National School at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 17th of September. Dr Venables’s talk, “Air Quality, Climate-friendly Travel and You” will give an overview of recent air quality and climate change research and explain changes that individual families can make to their everyday activities so that they can commute and travel in a more climate-friendly way.
‘There is a growing body of evidence on the health impacts of car fumes on the health of children, as well as growing levels of sedentary transportation of children to school. Modelling a successful Schools Streets initiative in London, we’re very excited to support the Parents Association of St. Catherine’s to pilot what we believe is the first school street event in Ireland. We’re keen to seek pragmatic and effective solutions for parents, schools and children to the congestions at school gates, to reduce exposure to car fumes and of course to increase physical activity and exposure to play among children’ said Denise Cahill, Coordinator Cork Healthy Cities which leads the European funded Playful Cork City initiative in Cork City.
The Parents Association at St Catherine’s National School is a member of the National Parents Council Primary. The Association supports St Catherine’s National School by organising welcome events for parents and teas for significant school celebrations, as well as encouraging parents to contribute to the life of the school. A particular focus of the Parents Association at St Catherine’s is climate-friendly, sustainable, active and safe travel.
Participating in a Healthy School Street event is only one of the many activities that Playful Cork City coordinates. The initiative is based on the use of play for promoting social inclusion, healthy lifestyles and energy awareness, place-making and economic prosperity. Cork city has secured URBACT European funding – a specific fund to aid urban development in cities across the EU – to promote play as a means of promoting social inclusion over the next three years. Playful Cork City will support new inner-city and urban play spaces, traffic will be restricted on some streets for pop-up play events, and the libraries in the city will support local communities to host play events.
To view a video of the event please click here