School tackles air quality in South Wigston

Pioneering new air monitoring and education programme for primary school children and their families. 

How can we use data to change behaviour? Oadby & Wigston Borough Council (OWBC) is working with Leicestershire County Council on a new initiative to gather data on local air quality and to educate local families at a school in South Wigston. 

Elsa, a pupil at Parkland Primary School, with her poster to encourage people to walk to school, photo courtesy of OWBC

Observations and data already suggest that high levels of commuter traffic and congestion at peak times in the Blaby Road area of South Wigston has a concerning effect on air quality. This, of course, is a serious problem for people with existing health concerns and other vulnerabilities. What’s more poor air quality negatively impacts children and young people, with evidence showing that it can increase of a person developing conditions such as asthma. 

That’s obviously a concern for those at nearby Parkland Primary School. 

As a result, an air quality monitor is to be installed near the school, providing real-time data on levels of pollution. But gathering data doesn’t solve the problem. To achieve that, the school is also piloting a range of activities to raise awareness of the issue, reduce traffic locally and improve air quality. These pilot schemes and initiatives are set to run through the school year. 

These include special interactive lessons for pupils about the positive impact that they and their families can have on air quality and the local environment. Pupils will also be provided with activity trackers to encourage them to travel more actively, walking and cycling instead of going by car. There will also be lessons in cycling for key stage 1 pupils. And parents who continue to drive their children to school will be encouraged to turn off their engines while stationary, as part of a wider ‘anti-idling’ campaign. 

Cllr Carl Walter at OWBC says: ‘There is clear data that shows air quality around Blaby Road is poor and we want people to start thinking about how this is affecting others, especially the younger generation. 

‘Partnering up with Leicestershire County Council and Parkland Primary will help start raising the profile of this problem in the local community. Educating youngsters and having them help carry messages about issues of this nature is a proven way of creating a positive impact. 

‘Clearly though this about far more than just school traffic, the issue is commuter traffic in general and the impacts of this. Our work with Parkland Primary is a way to start provoking these conversations in the community so we can all look at our lifestyles and ways in which we can reduce car travel and increase our active travel such as cycling and walking.’  

Cllr Louise Richardson, Cabinet Member for Health and Well-Being at Leicestershire County Council, adds: ‘Air pollution has serious negative effects on people’s health, and is something that Leicestershire County Council takes very seriously. Initiatives like this can make a real difference, and it’s great to be part of a project which educates and encourages parents and children to do their bit to improve the environment for everyone.’ 

Laura Pryor, Healthy Schools Co-ordinator at Parkland Primary School, says: ‘The health and wellbeing of our pupils is hugely important to us at Parkland. As such, we’re very excited to be part of this project which is working to directly improve the lives of our pupils.’ 

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