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How 'Clean Air for Schools' and 'School Streets' campaigns are helping.

Emma and Son Sml

Mum Emma tells us how the 'Clean Air for Schools' and 'School Streets' campaigns are helping her and her family.

My name is Emma, and my son, Isaac, is in year 1 in a school in Christchurch. He loves it! We’re in the fortunate position of living on the same road as his school – it makes the school run, and dropping off forgotten PE kits, a doddle! But it also comes with some surprising downsides too.

School drop off and pick up times make my road incredibly busy and dangerous – there are cars parked everywhere, even on driveways, zig zags and yellow lines, and it can be hard for people with pushchairs to make it up onto the pavement safely. Then there’s the issue of air quality – if we have the windows in our house open at these busy times, we can smell the car fumes from where some people leave their engines running. My son has asthma so it does make me worry about how the pollution affects him.

Last year, I heard from the school that they were working on a ‘clean air for schools’ initiative, a joint campaign with BCP Council, Public Health Dorset and Sustrans to improve air quality outside local schools. I think this is a great idea – one thing I learnt from this is that a car idling for one minute can release 150 balloons worth of pollution into the air. I don’t think people realise how much of an impact idling has – I didn’t! It’s worrying that this is such an issue outside schools, where our children are subjected to this invisible danger.

Sustrans, in partnership with BCP’s sustainable travel team, works with the school to help promote a knowledge of the impact of air pollution, and has loads of resources for children and parents like videos, worksheets and has developed a toolkit for BCP schools which is very informative.

I’ve also heard about something called School Streets, where the school’s road is closed to traffic at pick up and drop off times so it’s a lot safer. These types of initiatives give us more options for what we can do to improve things, and I’d love this to be considered at Isaac’s school. If the councillors can see their constituents are supportive of these, it can only be beneficial.

I do think encouraging children to walk, wheel or cycle to school will improve lives – the long-term impacts are so beneficial, both to health and the amount of traffic. The school’s catchment area extends a mile and a half out at the most, which should be doable for most people at least some of the time. Even parking slightly further away and walking a little bit is an improvement. Plus, for those who get caught in traffic for ages, or park their cars 15 minutes early to get a good parking spot, I think the impact would be huge if they walked that amount of time instead. Even one active journey a week is an improvement, and studies have shown that children who walk, wheel or scoot in arrive at school more alert and ready to learn.

I think we’re heading in the right direction, with more action being taken to improve the air quality near schools, but I’d love to see fewer cars out on the school run. Now that the better weather is here, it is the perfect time to walk or cycle your children to school. 

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