Children from schools across Bath took part in activities to celebrate the city’s Clean Air Day, which took place on 16 June. This included pupils from St Stephen’s School who celebrated by making giant signs and colourful flyers to show how much the school community needs clean air and traffic free streets near the school gates.
Every child at Oldfield Park Junior School was given the chance to make their views known to councillors during a Clean Air Day assembly. Children wrote and drew their messages on large posters, with their wishes including ‘more walking paths to schools which are safe’, ‘better pavements’ and ‘cheaper public transport’. Headteacher Dave Goucher said, “At OPJS we know how important walking, cycling and scooting to school is for children’s health and wellbeing. Today our children sent a very clear message that they want cleaner air and safer streets”.
Widcombe Infant and Junior Schools both held Clean Air Day assemblies, with children on the Infant School Council having written to B&NES Council asking them to take action on pollution and some classes designed anti-idling stickers to go in their parents’ cars. Pupils also wrote individual pledges for their clean air action, while parents at both schools signed a letter to B&NES Council expressing their concern about air pollution and supporting urgent action to improve local air quality.
At Bathampton Primary School, children in several year groups talked about air pollution, what causes it and why it’s a problem. Year 5 children counted vehicles coming over the canal bridge and Year 2 children designed posters to show what they had learned about why air pollution is harmful.
Saskia Heijltjes, parent and Bicycle Mayor of Bath, said, “Children are not often asked for their opinion, but when we do ask them, they tell us that they want to walk, scoot or cycle to school and that they want the roads to be safer and the air to be cleaner.”
Pauline Harris from community action group FACE (Families Acting on Climate Emergency) added, “Children and young people get very little say in what happens in their local area, but they are the ones most affected by dirty air and cars taking up too much space in our city. Older generations can stick up for them and help make their voices heard along with the voices of drivers who dominate the conversation.”
Clean Air Day is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign, organised by Global Action Plan. According to the online air pollution checker tool addresspollution.org, the air around Oldfield Park Junior School, St Stephen’s School and Widcombe Schools exceeds safe limits of pollutants as set by the World Health Organisation, with Widcombe in the 80th national percentile for air pollution levels.