Rathgormack NS earns fourth Green Flag and County Council award

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

Rathgormack National School is to receive a County Council Environmental Award in recognition of the excellence of its students’ transport and travel project that has earned the school its fourth Green Flag .

Waterford Co. Council Environment Department official Ann Sullivan informed students, teachers and parents of the award at a ceremony to celebrate the school’s latest Green Flag that was attended by Environment, Heritage & Local Government Minister Phil Hogan.

The school had hoped to get Minister Hogan to officially raise its new Green Flag on a pole outside the school but the celebration was moved indoors to Rathgormack Community & Hiking Centre across the road due to bad weather where the Minister was instead presented with the flag by student Abbie Roche, a member of the School’s Green-Schools Committee.

The celebration was attended by students, teachers and a large gathering of parents as well as Fine Gael TD Paidi Coffey, Fine Gael Cllrs Mary Greene and Brendan Coffey, An Taisce Green-Schools officer Hans van de Ven, former An Taisce Green- Schools officer Yvonne Kelly and Ann Sullivan.

Before the ceremony, Minister Hogan met members of Rathgormack NS’ Green-Schools Committee, who led the two year transport and travel project.

The Minister was treated to performances of Irish traditional music and Irish dancing from students and the entire school sang the song “Growing Up Green” for him.

On behalf of the School, 6th class student Roisin Hallahan presented the Minister with a gift of a photograph of the Comeraghs Mountains taken by local photographer Francis Quigley.

In her address, Rathgormack NS Principal Catherine Power said the school’s involvement with the Green Flag scheme began in 2004 when some of their current pupils weren’t even born. Helping students to be environmentally aware had become part of the School’s ethos.

She outlined that the School had been working on earning its fourth Green Flag over the past two years.

Students were encouraged to walk to school where possible, though this wasn’t always feasible for students in rural areas. Car pooling was promoted and a Park and Stride initiative was introduced where students were encouraged to walk to school from a point in the village about half a kilometre from the school gate each morning. There was huge competition between classes to win the prize for the most walkers, she recounted.

The school also staged a Cycle on Wednesday (COW) day of action where cycling legend Sean Kelly spent a day with the students, who attended bike maintenance classes run by Barry Meehan and road safety classes run by Gda. Ronan Slevin.

Minister Hogan said he was delighted to attend the celebration.

He said the environment was very important to everyone and it was very important to protect it. He noted that his generation hadn’t been good at protecting the environment but he believed this young generation was going to make up for those failures and ensure that all the natural areas will continue to look as beautiful as they are today.

“We are the custodians of the environment and we want to pass it onto the next generation as best we can and better. I appreciate the work young people in Rathgormack National School have done and hopefully we will be celebrating in future occasions the awarding of the school’s 5th and 6th Green Flags,” he said.

Minister Hogan pointed out that conserving natural resources like water and improving the energy efficiency of houses didn’t just help the environment - they also saved money.

At a time when every household was tightening its finances, anything that saved money was good, he said.

Ann Sullivan, Education and Awareness Officer at Waterford Co. Council’s Environmental Department, said she was “totally overwhelmed” by the work students had done at Rathgormack NS to achieve this Green Flag and congratulated the students, teachers, school caretaker, parents and Green Schools co-ordinator.

“The work you are doing is fantastic. When I came here a few weeks ago I met your Green-Schools Committee.

“They were so enthusiastic that I didn’t really have to ask any questions because they were great at volunteering all the information,” she said.

She described the school’s Green Flag project folder as the best she had ever seen from a Green School and because of this the Co. Council had decided to present Rathgormack National School with an Environment Award in September.

An Taisce’s Green-School’s Officer Hans van de Ven said the song “Growing Up Green “sung by pupils summed up all of what they were doing at the school and he encouraged them to keep it up.