The work of a school boy from Downpatrick is to take centre stage at Balmoral Show before being used to promote farm safety in schools across Northern Ireland.
Matthew Nelson from Down High is the overall winner in a prestigious competition run by Ulster Bank - the show's principal sponsor - in conjunction with organisations including the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland, Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
The 12-year-old’s idea was selected by a panel of judges to be made into an educational resource and unveiled at the four-day show – the largest of its kind on the island of Ireland.
His winning story-board has been produced into an animated video which will be unveiled in principal sponsor Ulster Bank’s marquee on the opening morning of Balmoral Show.
The video will then be used as an important teaching resource in schools to educate children about the importance of farm safety. It will also be available to view / download from the Balmoral Show’s digital channels and the HSENI’s website.
Matthew – whose work was selected from more than 500 entries - used colourful designs and catchy rhymes to illustrate the potential dangers children can encounter when playing on a farm.
Focusing on the risks posed to children by farm equipment - a theme which was recognised by judges as having particular importance this year - Matthew’s entry advised children “next time you are playing on a farm, stop, think and stay away from harm”.
As well as having his winning design produced by a top graphics agency, Matthew also wins an iPad and a trip to the Balmoral Show for his class, courtesy of Ulster Bank.
The other finalists, who receive a day out at the show with their class, were:
Ellie Scott, Rathfriland High School
Rihanna Reid, St. Columb’s Primary School, Desertmartin
Victoria Currie, Dalriada High School, Ballymoney
Robert Wilson, Windsor Hill Primary School, Newry
Odhrán Doherty, St. Mary’s Primary School, Portglenone
More than 500 entries were received to the competition and each of the judges welcomed the fact that so many entries focused on the four key risk areas identified by the HSENI, which are Slurry, Animals, Falls and Equipment.
Finalists’ storyboards are being displayed in Ulster Bank’s marquee at Balmoral Show, whilst dozens of other entries are going on show at Ulster Bank branches in areas including Belfast, Maghera, Newry Dungannon, Enniskillen and Ballymena.
Speaking about the competition, Bryan Monson, Chief Executive of the HSENI praised schools for taking part and welcomed the initiative taken by Ulster Bank.
“It’s commendable that so many schools have engaged in this competition and are actively promoting the issue of farm safety in their classrooms. But there still remains a great deal of work to be done in highlighting this important safety issue.
“That’s why we are so pleased that Ulster Bank has helped to produce a very useful teaching resource which we look forward to using in schools all over Northern Ireland when giving our safety talks.
“I’d like to congratulate Matthew, and indeed all the winners and wish them an enjoyable day out to the Balmoral Show.”
Echoing these thoughts, Ulster Bank’s Senior Agricultural Manager Cormac McKervey says: “We believe that education has a significant role to play in tackling the issue of farm safety with young people in Northern Ireland. And we are very pleased to help use the platform we have as principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show – such a key event for farming – to help communicate the message.
“Farming and agriculture remains one of our most important industries here but we are still seeing tragedies and fatal accidents all too often. We believe that by educating children on the importance of keeping themselves and others safe, we can help to reduce the number of accidents occurring on farms and promote the many benefits of a career in this sector.”
“To make a real difference, it is vital that organisations work together so it was especially encouraging to have support this year from the HSENI, YFCU and the UFU who are each working to ensure that this important message is heard.”