Dangerous air at Haringey school features in Channel 4 doc

A documentary mostly filmed at Lordship Lane Primary School is a stark warning about the dangers to the health of children posed by air pollution, warns a councillor who is also a parent at the school. 

Cllr Tammy Palmer (L) and Michelle Randles, the headteacher of Lordship Lane Primary, along with pupils from the school

Britain’s toxic air scandal, an episode of Channel 4’s long-running Dispatches series shown on Monday 10th June at 8pm, reported on an experiment where scientists from King's College London compared pupils’ exposure to pollutants “before and after” a series of interventions such as putting up ‘green screens’, finding less polluted routes to walk to school and travelling by foot, bike or scooter rather than car.

Sensors installed at the school and carried by children in specially designed backpacks showed that under ‘normal’ conditions, without these interventions, levels of nitrogen dioxide around the school were above legal levels every day of the trial. They were especially elevated at times students were being dropped-off and picked-up.

However, it appears that the raft of measures taken to protect pupils from pollution were effective. A week after their introduction, levels of nitrogen dioxide in the playground were 20% lower and pupil’s total exposure was reduced by 16%.

Cllr Tammy Palmer, ward councillor for Crouch End and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Children and Families has long been championing the need for greater action on School Streets and tougher penalties for car idling. In March, she proposed a motion on ‘Improving Air Quality Around Schools’ to Haringey’s Full Council, which was unanimously adopted. Her own son, a pupil at Lordship lane participated in the study.

Cllr Palmer comments:

“Even as someone who is very well informed about this topic, I was still shocked by some of the statistics from the first week of the study. They should be a wake-up call to both Haringey Council and parents right across the borough.

“Based on these results, it is imperative that the Council makes the School Streets action plan a top priority. Our neighbouring borough Islington has 8 School Streets in place already and plans to have 25 by 2020. Haringey should be no less ambitious.

“As alarming as some of the study’s findings were, they can still give parents and children reasons for hope. It shows there are ways we can make a difference, by for example, helping children find a different route to school or walking, cycling or scooting to school instead of using a car.”

Note to editor: ‘School Streets’ is a scheme where roads around schools are closed to motorised traffic during drop-off and pick-up times. Lordship Lane Primary is so far the only primary in Haringey to have an official School Street.

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