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Air quality has never seemed so important - a blog from Doorways
Posted by : Martin Crabbe

Air quality has never seemed so important. Whilst the whole world is in lockdown, the earth’s air is gradually cleaning up. With virtually no air traffic and massively reduced road traffic we are seeing clearer skies and less pollution. I’m also pretty sure that I’ve seen more children on bikes since the lockdown has happened. Yet despite this, and because of the virus, we are more concerned than ever that the air that we are breathing in (and breathing out) is safe. I’m guessing that by the time the virus has passed there will be few of us untouched by it. The campaigning masks used to make a point and for a bit of fun from the brilliant ‘Engines Off!’ project now seem too close to the bone. Rather than using old war masks or making ones out of cardboard students are making them for real and sending them to frontline workers (my nephew in Spain has just done this on a 3D printer).


During this time I imagine that most of us are doing a lot of (re)thinking. For me, I’m reflecting on the past, engaging in the present and dreaming of better days to come. If we live alone, the lockdown can make us feel even more isolated by making it difficult for visits of any sort and impossible for normal visits. If we live with others, we find we are now spending almost all our time with them (be they family, friends or  carers).  Without access to the outside, things may understandably become difficult.


The outdoors has become a particularly precious resource as governments consider where and how we can use it safely.  How long, for example, is it reasonable for those without gardens to stay in a park? And is the activity of ‘just sitting for a while’ currently unacceptable?


I hope that we don’t forget these things when we finally come out of lockdown. There will obviously be many pressing concerns to do with re-establishing the health of our communities and economies but the damage that poor quality air can cause should not be ignored in the drive to ‘get back to normal’.


Our first ‘doorway’ today is Air Quality. And, firstly, I want to celebrate the fantastic London Mayor’s Schools Air Quality programme, which has understandably been almost lost amidst this COVID-19 crisis. This programme has run for three years and is drawing to a close in its current form. It has been a hugely successful and inspiring programme, effecting real change in air quality across 50 of London’s most polluted primary schools. For full information, report and toolkit click here.


The Mayor’s Schools Air Quality programme was the result of a highly effective collaboration between 50 schools, WSP (an engineering consultancy), the Mayor, local authorities and other partners. Fortunately for the rest of us, the success of this project has ensured that it will continue, under new governance. I have no doubt that there will  be new and exciting developments to come. More on this to follow.


Whilst we await for this new stage of the London schools air quality project to be formally launched there are loads of great resources to look at (e.g. by the London Curriculum, Friends of the Earth, Living Streets, Greenpeace, UCL etc).


For the moment, I would like to focus on just one, the brilliant Clean Air Day resources put together by Global Action Plan. If you have time during lockdown I highly recommend a visit to their online resource page. You may jump straight in and use them to create resources for your school during lockdown or you may prefer just to reflect on what you might do when we return to school.


About Doorways:

London Sustainable Schools Forum are launching their most reflective project yet: Doorways. The Doorways project aims to support schools and those that work with schools to consider how to develop a more sustainable approach. They will be promoting great free school resources based around the following eight themes (doorways): air; energy; food; local well-being; school grounds; travel and traffic; waste; and water. These categories are a ‘mash-up’ of ideas from previous sustainable schools work and the eco-schools categories. The specific ‘doorways’ are less important that the idea behind them. Namely, that it's more important to get started on one area and do it well (i.e. as sustainably as possible) than worry about ticking every box.


Please visit their website page here.



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