25 schools across Sussex have been working with walking and cycling charity Sustrans on a major air quality education project funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Working in partnership with Sussex Air Quality Partnership and Living Streets, Sustrans aims to raise awareness and engage school communities to keep air quality on the agenda throughout the year, not just on Clean Air Day.
Sustrans’ air quality project officer, Daisy Addison, is working on the year-long project with primary school children. The project includes monitoring air quality, data analysis, an awareness campaign and clean air route-mapping.
Daisy said: “Our sessions are fun and informative. They encourage young people to identify the sources and effects of air pollution whilst developing an understanding of what can be done to improve it. Clean Air Day provides an opportunity for all schools to introduce this topic to their pupils and raise awareness of the far-reaching effects of poor air quality to human health and the environment.”
Alongside schools from all over Sussex, pupils from St Luke’s Primary School in Brighton have been investigating lichen and using nitrogen dioxide diffusion tubes to measure and monitor air quality around their school. They have been thinking about how people can work together to help minimise air pollution in a variety of ways, including discussing the role of walking or cycling to school.
Fiona Byrne, a teacher at St Luke’s Primary School said: “Year 3 were very engaged with the Air Quality Project because it was about their local area and directly related to their experience.
"It was a great opportunity for them to do some practical science by using test tubes to test the air quality around the school. We are now using the information to plan healthier routes to school, so benefiting the whole school.”
James Cleeton, Sustrans Director for England South, said: “The evidence on air pollution and the risk it poses to the public’s health is clear, so we must take action.
“It is great to see schools, agencies and communities working together on initiatives like this, which help to raise awareness and tackle the issue of poor air quality.
“We hope that everyone who participates in this project will continue to make choices that help reduce air pollution. Enabling people to make walking and cycling a normal part of their day will play a huge role in improving air quality, particularly around our schools, and will protect future generations for years to come.
“To help clean up our air, the UK Government needs to show leadership by helping local authorities fund and deliver better cycling and walking infrastructure, so that every child is able to travel on foot or by bike to school in safety and with confidence.”
Councillor Anne Pissaridou, Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee at Brighton & Hove City Council, said: “This project has raised important awareness about air pollution as a serious environmental risk to human health.
“As we know, road transport is the biggest source of emissions in Brighton & Hove. By encouraging children and their carers to make more journeys on foot, by bike or on public transport, or turning off the car engine when stationary, this project empowers people to respect and make a difference to the air we breathe.
“The sessions run by Sustrans point our school communities towards ways to cut air pollution and to minimise our exposure to it. We will continue to work with Sustrans to support these initiatives which are so important to informing and educating future generations about the difference they can make to improve air quality in the city and protect our local environment.”