My daughter has been through a huge amount this last few weeks, not least losing a classmate to suicide, worrying about my own isolation due to possible coronavirus infection, potentially transmitting asymptomatically to her grandmother, plus GCSEs now cancelled after she has worked and prepared so hard for them.

Despite everything, she has prepared an Active Transport Day for next week, which is now cancelled due to school closures.

I am so proud of her, and she has given me permission to publish the letter she composed, with some statistical help from her friend James, which was to be sent out this week. We hope it may inspire others who might be thinking of arranging similar days at their schools, once normality resumes, as part of a transition to healthier, safer, less air/climate polluting  methods of getting to and from school.

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Dear parents,

We are writing to inform you of the school’s Active Transport Day which will be taking place on Tuesday 24th March. On this day, we encourage students and parents not to travel to and from school by car, but instead to use more sustainable modes of transport. Our aims in doing this are to reduce air pollution in the local area, to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution for both children and adults, and to encourage students and parents to pursue a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

Air pollution from vehicles has been proven to cause a wide range of serious health conditions in adults and children. Our local nitrous oxide air pollution levels are routinely over 4 times the NICE recommended safe thresholds, and often break EU legal limits; as a result, lung afflictions pose a particular threat to members of our school community. We ask that you prioritise the safety of the community over convenience when considering your transport options.

In addition to the health risks of air pollution, the waste products released by vehicles also contribute to a number of dangerous environmental phenomena, most significantly global heating. By continuing to contribute to these problems, not only do we set a bad example for children, we also put our own futures at risk. By participating in Active Travel Day, we can start to make a change.

On the day, in order to reduce pollution in the local area, we encourage parents to drop off/pick up their children a minimum of 1km from the school. Some convenient locations for parking/drop-off include:

(example)  – 5-10 minutes’ walk from the school
(example) – 10-15 minutes’ walk
(example)  – 15-20 minutes’ walk

The school car park will be closed all day. We also encourage parents not to use the Pay & Display car park in the High Street; whilst convenient, this is a very popular spot and traffic quickly builds up, meaning car fumes linger on school grounds for much of the day. Given the risks of air pollution to children’s health, we ask that you avoid parking in and around the High Street car park at drop-off/pick-up times when at all possible. At the very least, if you continue to park around the school grounds, please refrain from ‘idling’ and, instead, consider switching off your engine whilst waiting in pick-up areas.

As parents, you may wonder how you can help your children participate in Active Travel Day, and hopefully transition to more sustainable travel options in the long term. Could they walk or cycle to school at least some of the time? Could they use public transport, which is more sustainable than cars? The school will be happy to offer advice on these issues.

We look forward to seeing you and your children on Active Travel Day and hope that this letter has given you pause for thought.

Many thanks,

From the Eco-Schools Committee.

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