|Countless schools are located in busy towns and cities, many of which are actually quite polluted. In London, the issue is such a concern that Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that air quality audits are to take place at 50 schools in areas that exceed legal pollution limits. Official figures show that 360 primary schools are currently located in areas with dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide, which gives you some idea of how widespread the problem is just in London.
So what can you do about it at your school? Are there any practical steps you can take to improve the air quality and protect children from harmful gases?
Well, here are just a few ideas, some of which might just be recommended to schools when the audits commence…
Promote walking and cycling
A great way to reduce the number of cars showing up at the school gate is to encourage children to travel by other means. Encouraging cycling, perhaps by equipping children with accessories like bicycle seat covers and bike lights could be one approach to take. But if kids don’t have a bike, why not set up a so-called walking bus? Not only does it promote road safety, health and exercise, it promotes a good team spirit and has even been proved to help cut the number of children arriving late or staying off. Again, schools could make it simple for them by providing them with kit such as hi-vis vests, or even pedometers so pupils and parents can see the health benefits of travelling by foot.
Move school entrances and play areas
The physical location of school entrances and play areas close to busy roads means kids are routinely exposed to harmful fumes. Is it possible to re-site the school entrance away from areas of heavy traffic? Subject to local planning, is it possible to establish pedestrian only zones outside the school?
No engine idling schemes
Drivers waiting outside school with their engine running are a big cause of pollution. Consider whether there’s space to erect signage asking parents to switch off their engines while they wait.
Install green features
One good way to mitigate toxic fumes from busy roads might be to plant trees, shrubs and plants on the school grounds. These can serve as aesthetically pleasing yet practical barriers that help to counteract emissions from cars.
As Sadiq Khan says, every child deserves the right to breathe clean air, and it’s great to see a prominent politician taking an active role in dealing with the issue of poor air quality around schools. But if more schools start being proactive and doing the same, it might prompt a much bigger response from the government that really helps makes our places of learning clean and pleasant environments.
Mayor’s new ‘air quality’ audits to protect thousands of school kidsLondon Assembly
School walking bus tackles lateness and absenteeism BBC News