THE introduction of a part-time 20mph speed limit outside a primary school located on a busy road in the Fermanagh countryside would come as a “great relief” to the whole school community, the principal has said.

Helen Ingram, of St. Mary’s Primary School in Mullymesker, has welcomed a Department of Infrastructure scheme aimed at introducing more part-time 20mph speed limits at rural primary schools on roads where the national speed limit applies, but added that extra traffic calming measures would also be needed.

Mrs. Ingram said: “There is no footpath to connect the school to the local villages of Arney or Bellanaleck. At present, 132 children attend the school, most of whom are dropped off and collected by parents in the mornings and evenings. These times are particularly busy and extremely dangerous as parents take their lives in their hands.

“They must negotiate speeding traffic as they try to access the school, whilst trying to keep young children safe.”

The principal said that, at present, there are signs on the road with lights flashing at school opening and closing times, which highlight that a school is nearby. She added that there was no reduction in the speed limit.

She said: “Very few people slow down on approach to the school on seeing these signs.”

Mrs. Ingram said the school would “wholly welcome” the introduction of a 20mph speed limit.

“This would be a great relief to the whole school community, thus ensuring that drivers slow down to a safe limit and that children and parents were safe on arrival and departure from the school.

“However, it would be essential that drivers were fully aware of the speed limit and prepared to slow down. Traffic calming measures would be essential alongside signage that is clear and unequivocal - in other words, unmissable! Paying lip service to this problem is not going to help,” the principal added.

When the scheme was first piloted by the Department of Infrastructure at a small number of rural schools, “highly complex” electronic signs were used to display the reduced speed limit.

As these signs proved “expensive to provide and maintain”, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard asked his officials to investigate alternative and more cost effective signing arrangements.

“I believe that we can achieve the same safety benefits at schools using a simpler and more reliable arrangement of signs. A more cost effective approach would allow more schools to be treated,” he said.

Mr Hazzard said that an alternative signing arrangement had been identified that used standard fixed speed limit roundel signs, along with flashing lights which could be set to come on at the times the reduced speed limit applied.

The Minister said his department was now going to test the alternative signing arrangements at 10 schools across Northern Ireland.

“A decision can then be taken whether there should be a comprehensive programme of part-time speed limits rolled out at all rural primary schools,” he added.

Speaking this week, a Department for Infrastructure spokesman said: “Officials are currently identifying schools that are the most appropriate to be included in the trial. All rural schools have to be carefully assessed to identify those with the highest priority and greatest need, and this work is currently ongoing.”