Resources to help monitor pollution levels and protect pupils

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

More than 2,000 schools and nurseries are located within 150 metres of a road with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution.

The alarming statistic has sparked calls for government action as well as for schools to engage their pupils and families with safety advice.

A number of organisations have published resources and guidance for schools, including campaigning charity Client Earth, which has published a UK-wide map of “poisoned playgrounds” – detailing the 2,092 schools situated close to pollution hotspots.

Nitrogen dioxide emissions on the roads are caused mostly by diesel cars, lorries and buses. Research undertaken by Greenpeace shows that schools and colleges are included within the 2,092 figure, as well as 1,017 nurseries.

Campaigners warn that young children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pollution. High exposure to polluted air at a young age can cause chronic health problems such as asthma and can stunt lung growth and affect brain development.

New guidance, published earlier this month, from the National Education Union (NEU) is urging schools to monitor air pollution and teach about pollution in lessons.

Meanwhile, campaign group Friends of the Earth has just launched the Clean Air Schools Pack, a free primary school resource aimed at key stage 2 pupils. Greenpeace has a similar key stage 2 resource.

The majority of the 2,092 nurseries and schools are located in London, but Birmingham, Sandwell, Nottingham, Manchester, Leicester and Hampshire are also among the worst affected.

The new Friends of the Earth pack is aimed at key stage 2 and contains posters, assembly and lesson plans, including air monitoring tubes which allow students to test for nitrogen dioxide. Pupils are also encouraged to campaign on the issue by engaging with local politicians.

Meanwhile, the NEU guidance, which has been published with the British Lung Foundation, encourages schools to create air pollution action plans. Advice includes installing air pollution monitors to show when toxic air is worst and tailoring travel plans to help pupils avoid the worst spots.

It also looks at where the teaching of air pollution might link into the national curriculum, including in science, PSHE, geography and citizenship.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Our own research found that only a third of local authorities are monitoring pollution levels outside schools. This isn’t good enough. Toxic air is poisoning our children. This guidance will address the lack of information and data available to teachers and parents.”


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