Air pollution affects your body in lots of ways and is the largest environmental health risk we face today
This Clean Air for Schools Vision outlines what would need to happen both outside the school and inside the school to reduce air pollution for pupils and staff. The actions illustrated in the vision are taken from the newly launched Clean Air for Schools Framework. The framework is a free, online tool to help every school create a tailored clean air action plan to tackle air pollution in and around the school. Activities range from reducing the volume of traffic outside the school by introducing a School Street and engaging the whole school community in campaigning for cleaner air, to improving the ventilation of classrooms and educating students on the causes of air pollution.
Every child has a right to breathe clean air when they are at school. Exposure to air pollution can cause a range of health issues in children including effects on lung function development, worsening of asthma, and it also plays a part in causing asthma in some individuals. Air pollution also damages children’s ability to learn as in areas of high air pollution the development of working memory can be stunted. Tackling air pollution around schools is more important than ever as it can be the cause of underlying health conditions that can make people more susceptible to detrimental health outcomes from COVID-19.
Air pollution is particularly damaging for children as they are still developing their organs and immune systems. Nearly 2000 schools and nurseries around the UK are located next to highly polluted roads – the fumes from these roads enter the schools, bringing pollutants like PM2.5 into the classroom. Primary and nursery school children can be exposed to 15% more pollution compared to adults when walking on busy roads due to them being closer to exhaust fumes because of their height.
Clean Air Vision Highlights
Roads Around the School: The level of air pollution outside schools can also impact air quality inside a school too. Our Clean Air School is situated between two roads, one of which has become a School Street to protect children on their way to and from school, the second is a high-street with a range of interventions to create a vibrant low traffic street in the heart of the community.
High Street: For many school children their journey to school will include an interaction with busy roads. Along our main road, a range of Healthy Streets Approaches have been used to ensure that this high street not only has cleaner air, but is a healthier, more inclusive space where people choose to walk, cycle and use public transport to get to school.
Pavements are wide and free of clutter, and pedestrian crossings are provided to support those on foot. A protected cycle lane along the road makes cycling to school safer. Along the street are parklets, where parents and children can stop, sit, and rest as needed. Urban greening (trees and plants) is featured across the vision to help clean the air, reduce the risk of flooding and to helps to keep urban areas cool.
Idling & Parking: There is no direct parking outside our school gates to keep children safe. Some disabled parking bays are provided for those who need them for access to our school and loading bays are provided by the side of our school. Electric changing points have been provided to enable those who have to drive to make the switch to electric vehicles.
Anti-idling campaigns can be used by schools to ensure that those in vehicles turn off their engines when they are not moving. At the same time ample safe cycling and scooting parking has been provided close to the school for pupils, parents and staff.
Classroom & School Building: To reduce sources of air pollution inside, this Clean Air School uses fragrance-free and low-VOC cleaning, building and arts/crafts products, regularly services the boiler and uses an air purifier to improve the air indoors. Keeping windows closed during rush hour and opening them during the remainder of the school day helps improve air quality. Our school also has double-glazed windows to keep energy bills down and uses a clean energy supplier to help reduce the overall contribution to air pollution.
When new school buildings are being designed and built, or existing buildings are being retrofitted, we ensure cleaner air is considered as part of construction and the design.
Education & Learning: Research from the University of Manchester indicates that if we maintained a 20% reduction in air pollution, children's ability to learn could improve by the equivalent of up to 4 weeks of school. From forming an eco-council to running a clean air assembly and lesson plan, there are many ways that clean air can be brought into the school curriculum and into extra-curricular activities to improve air quality inside and outside the school.
Community Engagement & Voice: Parents newsletters and letters to local stakeholders and businesses help to build a supportive community working together to reduce air pollution around the school and its neighbouring areas. Our Clean Air School helps to improve family and wider community understanding on the sources and health effects of air pollution and what actions people can take to tackle air pollution.
Using the student’s voice to engage with local and national decision-makers as well as large polluters to campaign for wider action on air pollution is an effective way for a school to help mobilise local action.
The illustration was proudly created in collaboration with the artist Adam Simpson.
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