National guidance for school staff on how to reduce air pollution launched at St Mary and St John Catholic Primary School in Wigan today (Monday 10 February).

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) and the National Education Union (NEU) has produced the guidance with support from Living Streets, the UK charity behind the National Walk to School campaign.

The BLF, Living Streets and the NEU want to highlight the health issues caused and aggravated by air pollution, especially to children’s young lungs, and provide guidance on the steps that schools can take to protect pupils.

Pupils launch air quality guidance

The guidance covers:

  • Key facts about air pollution and the impact to human health
  • Details on how to identify and monitor air pollution
  • Framework to develop an individual school travel plan (STP)
  • Community engagement tools to facilitate behaviour change
  • Advice on integrating air pollution education into the national curriculum
  • How to provide health support to pupils affected by air pollution

The National Education Union (NEU) is publicising the guidance to members to highlight the collective need to act to reduce air pollution.

Living Streets also launched an Anti-Idling Toolkit to accompany the air quality guidance. The toolkit has been supported by the BLF and gives practical advice on how people can reduce air pollution in their local area by taking action against idling vehicles.

At the launch, the charities led pupils at the school through an assembly about clean air and discussed how walking or cycling to school can reduce air pollution.

No child should have to breathe dirty air yet over 2,000 schools and nurseries throughout the UK are located in areas with illegal levels of air pollution. We have created these guidelines, along with our partners, to empower schools to take the necessary steps to reduce the health risks to their pupils and to engage and motivate the local community into taking action that will improve air quality at the school gates.

Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at the British Lung Foundation

Mary Bousted, NEU Joint General Secretary said:

“National Education Union members are hugely concerned at the impact of dirty air on the health of the children they educate. Schools cannot solve this problem alone but we are delighted to publish this joint guidance which sets out practical measures which can be taken to protect children.”

St Mary and St John Catholic Primary School currently takes part in WOW – the year-round walk to school challenge from Living Streets. Pupils record how they get to school every day on the interactive WOW Travel Tracker, with those who walk to school at least once a week being rewarded with a collectable badge.

Before St Mary and St John Catholic Primary School started WOW, over half the pupils were driven to the school gates (57%) and only 28 per cent walked. Since starting WOW, driving levels are down to 31 per cent with the rest of pupils choosing active travel – walking, cycling, scooting or using the ‘Park and Stride[1]’.  

Charlotte McHugh, Project Manager, Living Streets said:

“In walking to school, families can be part of the solution to our air quality crisis. The more children walking to school, the less air pollution there will be outside school gates.

“We want to encourage and enable more families to choose healthier, cleaner ways to do the school run – starting by dispelling the misconception that children are protected from air pollution inside the car.”

Living Streets also launched an Anti-Idling Toolkit to accompany the air quality guidance. The toolkit has been supported by the BLF and gives practical advice on how people can reduce air pollution in their local area by taking action against idling vehicles.

Idling causes twice as much pollution as a moving car. It is prevalent across the UK, but especially commonplace around schools. Not only does this increase toxic air but the loitering vehicles can put families off walking to school. While some car journeys might not be able to be helped, pollution from stationary vehicles is just unnecessary. Our anti-idling toolkit aims to empower people to put an end to idling in their local area.

Charlotte McHugh, Project Manager, Living Streets