Calls to ban cars outside schools grow following survey of teachers

63% of teachers would like to see cars and buses banned outside school gates during pick up and drop off times, a survey carried out by cycling charity Sustrans has found.

The survey, which asked 840 teachers of both primary and secondary schools a range of questions related to air quality, also found that 59% want the government to take ‘urgent action’ on air pollution.

When asked what they thought would reduce levels of air pollution outside schools, over a third of respondents (34%) believed that encouraging more people to walk, scoot and cycle would help reduce toxic fumes, followed by educating the school community about the cause and effects of air pollution (28%) and school road closures (26%).

Last month, Public Health England published their review of evidence on how to improve air quality, and proposed a ban on all vehicles outside pollution hotspots such as schools.

Air quality campaigners have particularly focused on the issue of idling outside schools as children breathe in up to three times more air relative to their weight, meaning they take in a greater volume of toxic air which can stunt lung growth and increase their risk of respiratory disease.

43% of teachers said idling car engines outside the school gates cause concern, with a further 63% saying air pollution is a concern because the school is based on or near a busy main road.

This year has seen several council initiatives to try and reduce the amount of cars near schools.

Leeds City Council gave hundreds of scooters to children to travel to school with, and Glasgow City Council will trial car free zones outside seven primary schools later this year.

However, the survey also revealed that it will be challenge to change the habits of time-sensitive parents with almost half of the respondents (48%) citing that driving is simply a faster and more convenient option for families.

This follows comments made last month by Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price who said parents who drive their children to school instead of using active travel are partly to blame for air pollution.

Sustrans is calling on schools to join their Big Pedal campaign, which will see children and teachers compete with schools to see who can travel the most amount of time on bicycles or scooters.

Xavier Brice, Sustrans’ CEO said: ‘We need to radically change the way we travel. Idling car engines and snarled up roads poison the air and our children’s bodies across the UK.

‘For too long now, dangerous levels of air pollution near schools have been ignored. Finally, this is starting to change. Our survey makes it clear that teachers want urgent action to clean up toxic fumes. They see closing the roads outside their school as an effective solution but need support from local authorities to enact change.’