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Clean-air campaigners call for school run ban

Parents should be encouraged to walk their children to school rather than drive

Mark Gould

Monday, 21 May 2018

Anti-pollution campaigners have written to the government calling for a ban on parents driving their children to school. The campaign group Living Streets has delivered a report to the Transport minister, Jesse Norman, asking for urgent action to be taken to improve the walk to school.

Department of Transport figures reveal that one in four cars on the roads at peak times are on the school run.

The Living Streets report, Swap The School Run For A School Walk, sets out 21 recommendations to enable more children to walk to and from school. It includes a call for cars to be banned from the school gates at drop off and pick up times.

Over 2,000 primary schools in the UK are situated in pollution hotspots, putting pupils’ health at risk, and the report reveals that 42% of parents are concerned about levels of air pollution around their child’s school.

Over half of parents (56%) say they are concerned about the health issues air pollution causes their children and more than a third (36%) would take pollution levels into account when choosing a school for their child.

A further third (30%) had been put off walking their children to school because of the poor air quality with over a fifth of parents (21%) holding the misconception that children are protected from air pollution inside the car. Living Streets says there is no consensus across the academic community that children are more protected inside the car than out of it. However, it adds that there is evidence that the benefits of being physically active outweigh the air pollution risk.

Dirty air is linked to ill health, currently contributing to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. Air pollution is harmful to everyone, but for children the risk to their health is even higher as their exposure is much greater and they absorb and retain pollutants in the body for longer. The National Audit Office’s most recent report found that 37 of 43 air quality zones in Britain do not meet EU regulations.

Living Streets wants local authorities to prioritise cutting air pollution; alleviating congestion; and providing a safer walking environment by introducing measures such as school street closures, Park & Stride sites and reduced traffic speeds around schools.

Jenni Wiggle, director of Local Impact, Living Streets says: “More children walking to school means fewer vehicles on the road and improved air quality for everyone.

“We want more children to enjoy the benefits of walking to school and so are calling on the government, local authorities and schools to work together to support families who to choose to walk.

“We would like to see more local authorities working with schools to ban people from driving up to the school gate - adding to air pollution, congestion and road danger during drop off and pick up.

“Walking to school not only improves our air quality but is a great way for children to build more exercise into their daily lives, helping them to arrive to school healthier, happier and ready to learn.”

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