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Bedford Council’s air pollution play should reach more schools children

The local authority’s Sustainable Transport team’s decision to commission an original theatre work has been welcomed, but policymakers are told they should do more.

Councillors have congratulated Bedford Borough Council’s Sustainable Transport team for commissioning a play aimed at teaching children about air pollution. Performances are taking place at schools across the borough in a bid to raise awareness of the risks posed by dirty air. 

empty building hallway

Funding for the theatrical work, which is aimed at students in Years 5 and 6 at four individual schools located in Bedford’s Air Quality Management Area, has come via a Defra Air Quality Grant. The live show explores the causes of and concerns associated with air pollution, and promotes safe, sustainable travel. 

In addition to the play, the Sustainable Transport team has also been visiting the host schools for awareness campaigns. This includes educating children on vehicle idling, how to improve air quality at school, and how to spot lichen, which are strong indicators of localised air quality. 

‘Bedford does suffer from air pollution, largely from vehicles. It’s an environmental and public health crisis. So, it’s vital to engage children and young people, not only as air pollutants are more harmful to their own health compared to most adults but because they can really influence their parents in helpful ways such as persuading them to walk or cycle, to use the car as little as possible and if they have to drive, to not let their engine idle,’ Green Party Cllr Lucy Bywater told Bedford Independent

‘So, it’s vital to engage children and young people, not only as air pollutants are more harmful to their own health compared to most adults but because they can really influence their parents in helpful ways such as persuading them to walk or cycle, to use the car as little as possible and if they have to drive, to not let their engine idle,’ she continued. ‘I’d love to see this work made available to every school, and for outcomes to be measured in terms of increased active travel and ending engine idling.’

In 2020, a network of 24 air quality monitoring sensors with 90% accuracy went live in Bedford.

Image credit: Kyo Azuma

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