Worrying figures on air pollution outside Warwick district schools - and why parked drivers who leave their engines running are part of a problem

Idling engines in Leamington can have an impact on young children’s health as far afield as Barford

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 1:02 pm
Pupils from Barford St Peter’s C of E Primary School pointing at the AQMesh air quality monitor with portfolio holder for climate change, Councillor Alan Rhead.

Air quality data from outside five schools in the Warwick district shows that an idling engine in Leamington can have an impact on young children’s health as far afield as Barford.

Pupils from Emscote Infant School, Milverton Primary School, Newburgh Primary School, Barford St Peter’s Church of England Primary School and Whitnash Primary School took part in a variety of activities during Clean Air Day on Thursday June 17, to encourage parents to switch off idling engines or look at alternative and more healthier ways of travelling to school.

As part of this, an air quality monitoring device was installed outside the school gates by local company AQMesh.

Though there were small peaks evident during drop-off and pick-up times outside the five schools, the data shows that background air quality from the DEFRA monitoring station on the Rugby Road in Leamington displayed similar levels of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter that can remain in the air for longer) to those outside of the schools.

Several factors can contribute to this, including nearby A-roads, motorways, and changes in wind direction; this demonstrates that improving air quality is a collective and district-wide responsibility.

Councillor Judy Falp, portfolio holder for health and community protection, said: “These results may be a surprise, but they highlight that air quality is a broader issue than people had perhaps realised, therefore the message is clear: air quality is everyone’s responsibility.

“Whether you are taking your children to school, travelling to work or elsewhere, we all need to think about how we travel and how making less frequent trips or ditching the car completely for more sustainable forms of transport can improve the quality of the air we breathe.

“The data does show peaks at school times, and air pollution remains a concern at the pavement level to residents and in particular children. I would like to thank AQMesh for providing these monitors and engaging with young people on the benefits of improving air quality.”

Jon Queralt, associate headteacher of Emscote Infant School who were one of the schools that took part in Clean Air Day, said: "We hope these findings will encourage families to walk, cycle or scoot to school whenever possible.

“As an eco-school we have always focused on teaching the importance of being environmentally aware by encouraging the children to walk to school, turn off the tap, switch off the lights and recycle.

“By having the air monitor installed and explaining to the children how it can help us to look after our environment, we can start to make even bigger changes which we hope will lead to a better quality of life and health for our community as a whole."