Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, is marking Clean Air Day by encouraging local schools to adopt the Clean Air for Schools Framework after the publication of new research that reveals that maintaining lower air pollution levels in and around school grounds by 20% could enhance the development of a child’s working memory by 6.1%, the equivalent of four weeks extra learning time per year.
The research is based upon modelling by the Clean Air for Schools Programme, a coalition of organisations including Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation and the University of Manchester. The findings are part of the Clean Air for Schools Programme, a year-long research project which looked at how air pollution and its effects on children can be tackled in schools across the UK & Ireland.
Based on the modelling by UoM, a 20% increase in outdoor air pollution (NO2) could stunt the development of a child’s working memory by up to four weeks per year. To encourage urgent action, Gwynne is calling on local councils and schools to use the newly launched “Clean Air for Schools Framework”. The Framework is also supported by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution (APPG), National Education Union (NEU) and National Association for Head Teachers (NAHT).
The Clean Air for Schools Framework, developed by Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation and the UoM, is a free online tool that gives teachers, headteachers, parents and local authorities a bespoke blueprint of actions for tackling air pollution in and around the school. Its database of actions includes interventions that can be taken both inside and outside school grounds including implementing school streets, improving indoor ventilation and consolidating deliveries.
Air quality data by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) shows air pollution decreased by up to 40% on average across the UK in peak national lockdown during April and May 2020 compared to the same time last year.
In light of this, the campaigning group urges that it is viable to maintain a 20% reduction around school grounds through actions included in the Clean Air for Schools Framework. Actions include School Streets, which when enrolled in the London Borough of Hackney, one of the leading community grassroots initiative proactively tackling air pollution, traffic reduced by an average of 68%, the number of children cycling to school increased by 51% and vehicle emissions outside schools (NOx, PM10 and PM2.5) are down by 74%.
At a time when schools are urgently reviewing their operations, implementing major changes to the movement of pupils and parents on their premises, the group, supported by Gwynne urges local schools to adopt and implement the framework, with support from local and national government.
All actions in the Clean Air for Schools Framework have been vetted by existing research, academic insights and in-school air quality testing by the University of Manchester and further refined in collaboration with teachers and students. Notably, in classroom research conducted at Russell Scott Primary School in Denton found that using an air purifier over a short period of time can reduce levels of indoor air pollution (PM2.5) by up to 30% in classrooms.
Andrew Gwynne said:
“I strongly support the Clean Air for Schools Framework and would encourage all local schools to adopt it.
“The research shows clean air around schools is not just good for our children’s health, but for their educational attainment too.
“I’m particularly proud of the role that Russell Scott Primary in Denton – where I went as a child – has had in developing the Framework and leading the way for other schools on this issue.”