Solihull schools strive towards cleaner air


Solihull Council is committed to improving air quality.  Although the borough’s air is within national air quality objectives, the Council is working closely with schools to tackle this significant priority.

Councillor Andy Mackiewicz, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Planning and Housing visited Sharman’s Cross Junior School and Smith’s Wood Primary Academy ahead of Clean Air Day (17 June 2021) to find out what pupils are doing to highlight this important issue.

Not only has air pollution been included in the school curriculum, Sharman’s Cross Junior School has been promoting the WOW programme, encouraging parents to leave the car behind on the school run.  The ‘Walk at least Once a Week’ programme is a partnership between Solihull Council, Living Streets and Transport for West Midlands.

Miss Sara Wilkes, Head Teacher at Sharman’s Cross Junior School commented: “The WOW initiative is very popular amongst our parents and pupils, with many choosing to walk, cycle or scoot to school when they can.  Not only is this better for the environment, it’s great for the health and wellbeing of our pupils, which in turn has a positive effect on their learning.”  

In total, 16 schools across the borough are taking part in the WOW initiative, increasing active travel at these schools to 81% (figures from Living Streets, Dec 2020).

Pupils at Smith’s Wood Primary Academy are supporting the Council’s anti-idling campaign, asking motorists to switch off their car engines when waiting outside the school gates to improve the local air quality.

Mr Andy Mills, Environmental Awareness Lead at Smith’s Wood Primary Academy explains: “Our pupils noticed how many cars were left running outside the school so were really keen to be part of this campaign.  Pupils have been busy designing posters and parents have been given leaflets to highlight the issue, we also have a banner as an active reminder on our school gates. We have all noticed and appreciate the impact of cleaner air as a result of this campaign.”

Councillor Andy Mackiewicz, who is responsible for the borough’s Air Quality Strategy, said: “Air pollution is real, it is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK, so, it is lovely to see local young children getting involved in this very important issue.   

“We’re trying to give children the confidence to cycle and walk to school with family and friends, so that parents can leave the cars behind as road traffic is one of the main causes of pollution.  We all need to think about leaving the car at home - even if it’s just for one day per week and use public transport, walk or cycle. 

“Solihull Council also operates ‘School Streets’, creating a predominantly car free zone to reduce congestion outside schools at key times. Helping to create a safer, more pleasant environment for everyone around schools.”

The Council also has a number of initiatives that will over time contribute to better air quality.  These include the installation of electric charging points, improving opportunities for cycling and walking through our Cycling and Walking Strategy and the development of a Net Zero Action Plan focusing on reducing the borough’s CO2 emissions to net zero by 2041.