Safer air for school streets

ClairCity is busy analysing policy ideas around the world that aim to reduce air pollution and improve the lives of urban residents. In this blog, we take a look at school-focused initiatives in the UK.

Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution – a study in London found that children living in more polluted areas had on average 5% less lung capacity. Breathing polluted air increases the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, and new evidence is suggesting there might be links to reduced brain development. Over a child’s lifetime, being exposed to air pollution also means they are more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

What works to protect children?

Schools, as the place that children spend much of their time, are a key location to reduce air pollution.

The UK is not breaking new ground in this matter – in our partner city of Amsterdam, regulation already means that primary schools must be located at least 50m from a main road and 300m from a dual carriageway or motorway. Furthermore, more than 60% of Dutch children under the age of 12 walk or cycle to school. However, local authorities in the UK are starting to play catch-up by addressing traffic around schools and sustainable school travel.

Many schools across the UK are involved in campaigns to get families to switch engines off or encourage families to walk, cycle, take public transport or scoot to school to reduce the number of car journeys, improve road safety and improve the air quality around the school at crucial drop off and pick up times.

Research shows that thinking carefully about the distance families are travelling, and that ensuring local roads, parks and pavements give safe and attractive routes are crucial for the success of these interventions. Providing role models of “low polluting” behaviours and helping families feel confident with the skills and materials they need (apps that may help to find nicer walking routes, how to pump up bike tires…) are also important to guarantee that positive changes stick.

School Streets – the future?

Taking this a step further, School Streets initiatives restrict traffic from accessing the roads around schools at the start and end of the school day. This can include permanent or temporary road closures or restrictions on vehicles accessing key locations, obliging families to park further away or find alternative modes of transport. Councils in Edinburgh, Solihull and several London boroughs are already running School Streets programmes, with other cities and local authorities still considering the idea.

As School Streets involves changes to traffic management, council involvement is crucial. In the cities where School Streets are already running, the councils are using Experimental Traffic Management/Regulation Orders. This means they can test restrictions and incorporate feedback from the community, monitoring the impact on local traffic flows and residents.

School Streets can work for some locations, but within the existing schemes there are also limitations to its rollout. Hackney Council have released a “toolkit for professionals” showing details of their approach. Schools could not participate if they were on “traffic sensitive roads”, main roads or bus routes. Inevitably, this reduces the possibilities for schools where air pollution and traffic are more likely to be an issue, precisely because they are located on major transport routes.

The schemes usually include exemptions, for example for blue badge holders (people with disabilities), residents or businesses within the restricted area, and potentially utilities vehicles. Inevitably, the more exemptions there are, the smaller the difference that a School Streets zone will make, but this is also a balance between the requirements of other road users. There is also a cost involved: changing road signage or layout, and then through enforcement, whether through cameras or patrols.

Overall it is clear, children cannot protect themselves from air pollution and need families, schools, neighbourhoods, local authorities and road agencies to work together. Collaboration is key to ensuring a future for children with clean air.

Corra Boushel, UWE Bristol

Zwycięzcy konkursów

21 marca 2019 w Sali Koncertowej “Muza” w Sosnowcu odbyła się Gala Dobrych Inicjatyw. Jest to coroczna impreza mająca na celu uhonorowanie osób, które na co dzień wpisują się w życie społeczności lokalnej Sosnowca.

Podczas tegorocznej gali ogłoszono zwycięzców konkursu dla szkół „Moje miasto, moja szkoła, mój dom” oraz konkursu filmowego dla seniorów. Przewodniczący Rady Miasta Mateusz Bochenek wręczył nagrody członkom zwycięskich zespołów oraz autorom filmików promujących ekologiczny sposób przemieszczania się.

Monitoring pollution at Bristol schools

In 2018, Bristol City Council did extra monitoring at 59 schools & nurseries to check nitrogen dioxide levels where young lungs spend their time.

The results should be released around March 2019. If your school is on the list:

  • Do the PTA, “eco club” and school council know, and are they ready to share the results?
  • How can you use this information to get more families involved in reducing air pollution?

A school-wide pledge to scoot, ride or walk once a week, support for a “park & stride” scheme, run an anti-idling campaign, apply for temporary road closures to celebrate streets for children, talk to councillors about changing road layouts, a map project showing the quickest and nicest routes to school for walking with littler ones…

What could your school community do?

1. Ashley Down Primary School
2. Ashton Gate Primary School
3. Ashton Park School
4. Avonmouth Church Of England Primary School
5. Avonmouth Children’s Centre
6. Bannerman Road Community Academy
7. Barton Hill Academy
8. Blaise Primary & Nursery School
9. Briarwood School
10. Bristol Cathedral Choir School
11. Bristol Futures Academy
12. Cabot Primary School
13. Cathedral Primary School
14. Chester Park Infant School
15. Colston’s Girls’ School
16. Compass Point- South St School & Childrens Centre
17. Compass Point: South St School & Children’s Centre
18. Early Years Bannerman Road
19. Easton Church Of England Primary School
20. Fairfield High School
21. Filton Avenue
22. Fishponds Church Of England Academy
23. Glenfrome Primary School
24. Hannah More Primary School
25. Henbury School
26. Hillcrest Primary School
27. Holy Cross Catholic Primary School
28. Hotwells Primary School
29. May Park Primary School
30. Millpond Primary School
31. Nova Primary School
32. Orchard School
33. Parson Street Primary School
34. Redcliffe Early Excellence Children’s Centre
35. Redfield Educate Together Primary Academy
36. Rosemary Nursery School and Children’s Centre
37. Sea Mills Primary School
38. Sea Mills Primary School & Children’s Centre
39. Sefton Park Infant School
40. Sefton Park Junior School
41. Southville Primary School
42. St Barnabas Church Of England Primary School
43. St George C.E. V.C. Primary School
44. St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Bristol)
45. St Mary Redcliffe & Temple C.E. Secondary School
46. St Mary Redcliffe C.E. Primary School
47. St Michael’s On The Mount C.E. Primary School
48. St Nicholas Of Tolentine Catholic Primary School
49. St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School
50. St Paul’s Nursery School & Children’s Centre
51. St Werburgh’s Park Nursery School
52. St Werburgh’s Primary School
53. Summerhill Academy
54. Summerhill Infant School
55. The City Academy Bristol
56. The Leap
57. Victoria Park Primary School
58. West Town Lane Academy
59. Woodstock School

These schools were chosen by the council as they are either within the city Air Quality Monitoring Area or within 100m of a busy road. If your school isn’t on the list or you’re outside Bristol Council area, check our map to see your nearest monitoring location.

Support and resources

If you want to find out more or get support on how to make change happen at your school

1. Get in touch with the local branch of the Clean Air Parents Network or email
2. Check out Sustrans school resources for activities, survey templates and schemes
3. Use the National Clean Air Day anti-idling toolkit and schools toolkit
4. Share information from our resource kit
5. If you are linked to a secondary school in or near Bristol, we may be able to run an interactive ClairCity workshop on air pollution (links to Geography curriculum, or at an extra-curricular club) for pupils. Contact

600 children solving Bristol’s air pollution problems

With additional funding from UWE Bristol, our local team have been running activities with primary schools across the city in 2018.

So far, we have worked with over 600 school children on “Air Pollution Solutions.” You can see the report from our first visit on our blog, and since then we have had the pleasure of visiting Air Balloon Hill Primary and Summerhill Academy in St George, as well as meeting students from Fair Furlong Primary in Withywood, Bannerman Road in Easton, Shield Road Primary in Filton, and Ashton Gate Primary in Ashton at a “Primary Engineers” event hosted on UWE Bristol campus in March 2018.

An exciting part of the activities, alongside getting to do air quality tests, watch for chemical reactions and start planning how to solve air pollution in their neighbourhoods, was a chance for  the children to get involved in city democracy. When there was time available, we invited the pupils to write letters to their politicians to explain what they had discovered and share their solutions for Bristol’s air pollution.

So far, over 150 letters from young people have been sent to their local councillors, both Mayors and the relevant MPs. We have been impressed by the dedication and thoughts of the children, and also delighted that many local politicians have found time to respond to the letters directly. You can read the responses:

Response from WECA Mayor Tim Bowles
Response from Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees
Response from Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy
Response from Cllr Claire Hiscott
Response from Cllr Nicola Beech

We also had an email response from the office of Darren Jones MP, celebrating the project and the work of the children. We have passed on all the responses to the teachers to make sure that the children know their letters were received and read. As one teacher put it “From our point of view, writing and sending the Mayor letters made the learning purposeful and very real for the children…Thank you for such a great day!”

Thanks to Nicky Shale, Emily Prestwood, Laura Fogg Rogers, Corra Boushel and Debbie Lewis for their work on this project. This outreach was funded through the UWE Bristol Faculty of Environment and Technology Outreach and Public Engagement Award 2017.

Mayoral response to ClairCity schools work

In 2018, our Bristol team ran “pollution solutions” workshops for over 800 children in primary schools and Scout groups across the region.

At some of the events, the children had time to write excellent letters to local politicians to explain what they had learnt about air pollution in Bristol, and their suggestions for how they thought the city and region should address the problem and make a healthier, happier city.

We sent the letters to the Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees, as well as the West of England Combined Authority Mayor Tim Bowles. We copied in the local councillors and MP for each school. For the project team, it felt important to show the children that school projects don’t have to be “just pretend,” and that there were real ways they could have their voices heard and participate in local democracy. We also wanted them to understand that air pollution is a problem with solutions, and it shouldn’t feel intractable or overwhelming.

The ClairCity team are very pleased on behalf of the children to have received responses from politicians. These have been shared back with the children via their teachers, and we hope this will show the children that it was worthwhile doing the hard work of making their letters informative and persuasive.

You can see the responses from Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol:

Letter to Air Balloon Hill Primary from Marvin Rees

Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor:

Letter to Horfield schools from Tim Bowles

Kerry McCarthy MP:

Letter to Air Balloon Primary from Kerry McCarthy

Cllr Nicola Beech:

Letter from Cllr Nicola Beech

Cllr Claire Hiscott:

Letter from Cllr Claire Hiscott

We also received an email response from the office of Darren Jones MP, congratulating the work of the children and the project.

If you would like your school or youth group to get involved all of the materials for the activity are available for free to download. They are designed for ages 8-11 but some of the activities would be easily adaptable for older or younger children.

We haven’t carried out an in-depth analysis of the children’s suggestions, but overall more support for scootering to school was a strong favourite, and action to discourage grown ups from using their cars was also a priority. Through scoring and playing their own version of the top trumps game, many children decided that cheaper public transport and electric cars would help. There were also some exciting ideas around hoverboards and futuristic non-polluting fuels, magnetic propulsion and driverless cars. The future of Bristol looks bright, if these children are anything to go by.


Corra Boushel, UWE Bristol, ClairCity



ClairCity in schools

Through additional funding from the University of the West of England, the ClairCity team in Bristol ran a fun-packed day of activities for 9-10 year olds in January. In conjuction with Orchard School, nearly 90 pupils from Upper Horfield Community School and Horfield CE Primary School spent the day learning about the impacts, sources and solutions for Bristol’s air pollution problem. These materials are available for all schools to use for free.



The pupils had the chance to do their own tests on diffusion tubes and observe particulate matter with microscopes. They collected traffic data, thought about their own journeys to school and came up with solutions to reduce air pollution in Bristol.



After finding out all about air pollution, the pupils then wrote their own letters to Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees to explain what they had learnt and share their suggestions with him. They also produced posters to help others in their school community understand more about air pollution. The letters have been sent to the Marvin Rees, with the pupils’ MP, local councillors and West of England combined authority mayor in copy. A selection of the posters are being printed for use within all of the schools and the university, so that more people can find out about air pollution through the work of the children.

The teachers reported “We had a brilliant day and the children learnt so much – they particularly enjoyed getting to do a science experiment in a ‘real lab’ and wearing the coats, goggles and gloves. The Top Trumps session was also enjoyed by all. From our point of view, writing and sending the Mayor letters made the learning purposeful and very real for the children… Thank you for such a great day!

Find out about the politicians’ responses.

Huge thanks to Emily Prestwood and Laura Fogg Rogers from UWE Bristol, Helen Howard and excellent student assistants from Orchard School, the teachers, assistants and volunteers from Year 5 Upper Horfield Community School and Horfield CE Primary School, and especially to all of the year 5 pupils from both schools who put so much effort into making the day a success.

Corra Boushel, ClairCity, UWE Bristol