Greenpeace air quality event

Over 100 headteachers sign letter to the Mayor calling for clean air

27 January 2017

The Mayor announces...

Earlier this week, the Mayor announced a new £250,000 School Air Quality Audits programme. Under the new scheme, up to 50 primary schools exposed to the highest levels of air pollution in London will receive a detailed audit. The audits will identify ways to dramatically lower emissions and exposure to pollution in and around schools. They will also run alongside a pollution awareness-raising education programme at each school.

Healthy School Audits Programme

  • 103
    headteachers
    sign letter to Mayor calling for cleaner air
  • 50
    primary schools
    exposed to highest levels of air pollution in London to receive audit
  • 250
    thousand
    given to fund 50 school audits
  • 360
    primary schools
    located in areas exceeding legal limits

The new audits might recommend:

  • moving school entrances and play areas to reduce exposure to busy roads
  • 'no engine idling' schemes to reduce harmful emissions during the school run
  • looking at the school estate to minimise emissions from boilers, kitchens and other sources
  • changes to local roads, including improved road layouts, restricting the most polluting vehicles round schools and pedestrianisation around school entrances
  • 'green infrastructure' such as ‘barrier bushes’ along busy roads and in playgrounds to ‘block’ out toxic fumes
  • encouraging walking and cycling through competitions, ‘walking buses’ with large groups of pupils walking together on pavements, plus improving cycle and walking routes

Letter to the Mayor

Greenpeace coordinated a letter signed by 103 head teachers from schools across London and invited 8-10 year olds from Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School, St Luke’s Church of England Primary School, St George's Cathedral Catholic Primary, St Stephen’s Primary School and William Patten Primary School. 

Greenpeace's letter asks Sadiq to continue fighting air pollution and protecting school children from toxic air. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality as exposure at an early age can cause life-long impacts to their lungs. A sobering 360 primary schools are located in areas exceeding legal limits; if the first 50 audits are proven successful, the programme may be expanded to cover all schools.

The children split off in teams of four to play a game on the pollution hotspot map where they located schools eligible for audits whilst ecstatically chanting "clean air now!".

Sadiq said: ‘Every child deserves the right to breathe clean air in London and it is a shameful fact that more than 360 of our primary schools are in areas breaching legal pollution limits. Yesterday I was forced to issue the first ‘very high’ air pollution alert under my new comprehensive system, London’s filthy air is a health crisis and our children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of air pollution. This is why I’m doing everything in my power to safeguard Londoners’ health and my new air quality audits are a strong step towards helping some of the most polluted schools in London identify effective solutions to protect pupils from toxic fumes.

"Alongside my plans to bring forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and extend it along some of our busiest roads, plus new charges for the dirtiest vehicles and greener bus fleets - these measures will start to deliver real change in the long term. Now it is time for government to get a grip on air quality and match my ambition.”

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues said: “I am delighted to be working with primary schools to help protect children from the damaging effects of air pollution.

As Greenpeace wrote in their letter to the Mayor, children’s developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality. Studies have found children living in highly polluted areas are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood.

The audits programme we are launching today will help identity the most effective, evidence-based measures to reduce children’s exposure around schools. This is just one example of the Mayor’s wide-ranging measures to clean up London’s air.”