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More UK children worried about air pollution near schools

Photo issued by Newcastle City Council of Cllr Arlene Ainsley (left) with Head Teacher at Hotspur Primary School, Kevin McVittie, and pupils Isan, Harrison, Zephie and Harry from years three and four. Streets outside 11 primaries, including Hotspur, will be shut in a pilot scheme to make the school run cleaner and safer. Pic by Steve Brock/Newcastle City Council

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Concern about air pollution near schools is rising among children, new figures suggest.

A poll of 1,305 UK pupils aged six to 15 indicated that 49% are worried about the issue, a poll commissioned by walking and cycling charity Sustrans indicated.

That is up 10 percentage points from a similar survey carried out in 2018.

Some 62% of respondents to the latest poll said they do not think adults are doing enough to tackle climate change, with 71% feeling worried about the issue.

Just over half (53%) believe adults do not listen to children’s concerns on the subject.

Two out of five (40%) pupils think more people walking, cycling or riding scooters to school is the best way to cut local air pollution, with 57% claiming there are too many cars in the vicinity.

Sustrans chief executive Xavier Brice said: “The results of this survey highlight the responsibility we have to create a healthier, greener and fairer society for the generation coming after us.

“With a large number of cars on the road during the morning peak doing the school run, swapping everyday journeys – such as how we travel to and from school – from private cars to active modes of travel can help cut dangerous levels of air pollution in our towns and cities which have a detrimental impact on the environment.”

The charity is asking local election candidates and elected officials to ensure children have the “opportunity and confidence” to get to school by active travel.

The results of the survey were released to mark the launch of Sustrans’ Big Pedal initiative to encourage more than half a million children to walk, cycle or use a scooter for journeys to and from school.

Breathe London – a community network of air pollution sensors – published data in October 2020 showing that 39% of pollution from nitrogen oxides around primary schools across the capital came from road transport, with diesel cars the single largest contributor.

Separate Department for Transport figures show car use has returned to 86% of pre-pandemic levels, far ahead of buses outside London (51%) and trains (25%).

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