Air Quality Around Schools

The air in London frequently falls short of accepted WHO safety levels. This situation is bad for us all, but is even worse for young children whose lungs are still developing, and who are most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. We can address this by insisting that the air around schools is fit to breathe. Here is a list of actions you might like to consider:

Raising awareness

A number of different organisations track air quality in London and provide results on-line, like Breathe London, CleanAir London, Kings College London and Mums for Lungs.

A number of Apps are available for your phone, including the London Air Mobile app and the City Air app. Flow by Plume labs also provides a mobile air quality sensor for tracking pollution in real time along your school route.

The Mayor for London runs a School Air Quality program making funding available, and auditing the air quality around specific schools. Two schools in the borough have been audited and the results are published here.

Changing behaviours

A number of different schemes to encourage different behaviours around schools can help to significantly reduce traffic related air pollution. These include:

  • Walking buses that encourage children to travel to school together;
  • Cycle-to-school initiatives to reduce dependency on car travel;
  • School street schemes – closing off roads by the schools at drop off and pick up times;
  • No idling traffic wardens – children supervised by adults or teachers near the school gates.

Initiatives like these can be rolled out as part of the TfL STARS programme (Sustainable Travel: Active Responsible, Safe). Ealing Grid for Learning provides resources for you to implement this in your school. Ealing Council are keen to have more schools sign up. Let us know if your school is interested!

Campaigning for better transport options

Schools next to busy roads and railway lines will inevitably have worse air quality overall than those that are further away. The problem is the vehicles that we allow on those roads, and our dependency on those vehicles.

Ideally, more journeys would be made by non-polluting modes of transport, such as by scooters, bicycles or by foot. The Liveable Neighbourhood scheme by Tfl makes money available for making our streets safer and more attractive. Ealing Transition conducted its own Liveable Neighbourhood consultation available here.

The Major for London ULEZ is making great improvements air quality in central London, but the benefits have yet to be seen in the suburbs. More electric or hydrogen powered buses would improve air quality in the borough even more. Where car journeys are necessary, what about car sharing to reduce the number of cars on the streets?

Changing the school environment

Changes to the school environment can also result in significant improvements to air quality. The Chiswick Oasis project (St Mary’s schools in Chiswick) shows how installation of a green wall, air filters and VOC absorbing paints turned around the school’s air pollution problems, and in the case of the green wall provided a focal point for a community educational space.

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