One hundred London head teachers ask Mayor to curb pollution around schools

Publication date: 24th January 2017

Today, twenty of London’s children met with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to hand in a letter, signed by more than one hundred head teachers, asking him to protect London’s children from air pollution.

n the letter, coordinated by Greenpeace, heads asked the Mayor for measures to tackle diesel vehicles, to make good on his promise of a robust Ultra-Low Emissions Zone and make walking and cycling to school safer and easier. View the letter here.

Rebecca Abrahams, Head Teacher at St Luke’s CE school in Tower Hamlets, said: “We have a duty to protect the children in our care, but sadly, even while they play outside at lunch, they are being harmed by invisible air pollution from traffic. Given what we know about the life-long consequences of exposure to air pollution as a child, it’s imperative we clean up London’s air without delay.”

Last year it was revealed 433 primary schools and 86 secondary schools in London are in areas that exceed air pollution limits.

Air pollution can cause asthma in otherwise healthy children, can stunt children’s lung growth permanently by up to 10%, and is linked to strokes, heart disease and diabetes in older people.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Every child deserves the right to breathe clean air in London and it is a shameful fact that more than 360 of our primary schools are in areas breaching legal pollution limits. Yesterday I was forced to issue the first ‘very high’ air pollution alert under my new comprehensive system, London’s filthy air is a health crisis and our children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of air pollution. This is why I’m doing everything in my power to safeguard Londoners’ health and my new air quality audits are a strong step towards helping some of the most polluted schools in London identify effective solutions to protect pupils from toxic fumes.

“Alongside my plans to bring forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and extend it along some of our busiest roads, plus new charges for the dirtiest vehicles and greener bus fleets – these measures will start to deliver real change in the long term. Now it is time for government to get a grip on air quality and match my ambition.”

Areeba Hamid, clean air campaigner, Greenpeace said: “Air pollution is a blight on London, so it is hugely encouraging to see the Mayor prioritising this issue. Along with these measures, the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone will help to clean up the city’s air by phasing out the most polluting vehicles, letting our children breathe easy. But we also need to see action nationally to tackle the impact of diesel fumes on public health. We are hoping that the Mayor will continue raising these issues with government, where, sadly, we are mainly seeing inaction.”

At the meeting, the Mayor announced funding for 50  ‘air quality’ audits that will identify new hard-hitting measures to protect pupils locally from toxic air. The 50 primary schools are located in areas exceeding legal limits of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in a number of London boroughs, a fact described as ‘shameful’ by the Mayor today.

The Mayor’s office is due to consult on plans to extend the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone to the north and south circular. Greenpeace has publicly supported this proposal which will take the number of schools within the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone from current 35 to 776 [1].


[1] Information provided by Air Quality Team, Greater London Authority.