Northern Ireland

Fermanagh school gets glow-in-the-dark uniforms

A new school uniform which helps pupils to glow in the dark is being used to prevent road deaths in winter.

Reflective stripes have been woven into school blazers, and they start to shine when light falls on them. Soon, school scarves will also include high-visibility material.

Most school uniforms are usually made with dark colours, often black. The re-designed clothing is making pupils brighter than ever.

Three schools in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland have introduced the new uniforms, after a double tragedy when two teenagers were killed walking home from school.

Principal of Devenish College in Enniskillen, Mervyn Walker, said: "The whole emphasis is to try to save lives.

"The blazers are slightly more expensive - roughly around £8 extra. But it's well worth paying that price if someone's life can be saved on the road."

Fermanagh has a large rural population, and many pupils walk along dimly-lit country roads to catch a school bus.

Most pupils who wear the new uniform believe it is not just sensible, but fashionable.

Serena Magee, 16, from St Comhghall's College, Lisnaskea said: "It definitely brightens the place up a bit. It looks better than the old blazer. It gives more 'oomph' to it."

The new blazer, with its distinctive reflective stripes on the lapels and cuffs, effectively illuminates the person wearing it.

It has been described as the 'Ready Brek effect', a reference to the 1980s breakfast cereal advertisements which showed young people walking to school with a permanent afterglow having eaten the cereal.

The new reflective school blazer has gone down well with parents, even though it costs more than the old one.

The two pupils who died on their way home from school, Nathan Gault, 15, and Debbie Whyte, 14, both went to Devenish College.


Image caption Most pupils who wear the new uniform believe it is not just sensible, but fashionable

The deaths of the two popular teenagers devastated staff and pupils, and a plaque at the front of the school ensures they will never be forgotten.

The new uniform is catching on in Fermanagh, with St Comhghall's College and Lisnaskea High School also introducing the reflective blazers.

The Public Health Agency has provided £10 vouchers for more than 200 pupils to help pay for them.

Brendan Bonner from the agency said: "Fermanagh has some of the worst levels of road traffic collisions. The programme not only aims for better visibility for students on the road but also aims to improve their attitudes about hazard perception."

One of the key movers of the project was Rosemary Watterson, the chief administrative officer from the Western Education and Library Board.

She said: "We are delighted that three schools in Fermanagh have introduced reflective blazers this academic year and would encourage all post-primary schools, in particular, to give serious consideration to their introduction."

Pupils have helped to design the new blazers. Recent research suggested that a high-visibility jacket could be seen at night from a distance of more than 100m, whereas dark clothing only showed up from around 20m by a passing car.

That means pupils are five times more likely to be seen if they are wearing the reflective blazers.

Whatever way you look at it, it is a bright idea.