Schools across Oxford are being invited to take part in a competition to raise awareness about the effects of air pollution, and to promote sustainable transport on the school run.
Oxford City Council and Oxford Friends of the Earth are working in partnership to host a competition for primary school children in Oxford to create a banner encouraging drivers to think about the wellbeing and safety of children on their way to and from school.
The competition is open to all pupils with who are in school years three to six at primary school and will be running from Wednesday 15 January until Friday 6 March.
Entries can be made by a single student, a whole class or a group or club.
Competition entries will be judged by a panel, including Oxford children’s author and illustrator, and ex-primary school teacher, Mini Grey.
The school with the winning entry will receive a prize of £250 worth of play equipment, and have their banner displayed at school entrances across the city.
The competition will also help schools in their chance in winning one of Oxford Friends of the Earth’s Schools ‘Green Badge’ Awards.
The winner of the competition will be announced on Clean Air Day, Thursday 18 June.
The competition is part of the City Council’s STOP (Schools Tackling Oxford’s Air Pollution) project which aims to raise awareness of the main sources and health effects of air pollution emissions among the school community. The programme involves pupils in measuring pollution around their school, teaching them about the health impacts and educating them about ways they can help reduce pollution by encouraging walking, cycling and public transport.
The Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change saw student climate campaigner, Linnet Drury, who has participated in the school climate strikes in Oxford open the Assembly and address Assembly Members about why climate change is important.
Air pollution has been found to contribute to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and with changes linked to dementia. Data published by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimated that around 36,000 premature deaths in the UK every year could be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution, with health experts warning that there is no safe level of NO2. Children, alongside the elderly and those with lung conditions, are particularly susceptible to health problems caused by air pollution.
New data from the Oxford City Council’s 72 air pollution monitoring locations has shown that levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) fell by an average of 0.23% between 2017 and 2018 –a starkly slower rate in comparison to the 22.7% decrease between 2016 and 2017.
The City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are currently holding a consultation on the latest Zero Emission Zone proposals, which aim to reduce the health risks for people living and working in the city.
“Our communities are learning that we need to tackle toxic air and our climate crisis because schoolchildren are teaching us that lesson. Dirty air can set back young people’s health when we should be giving them the very best start in life. I’m delighted that the council is launching this competition with seven to ten year olds to protect their health and their futures. Our hope is that Oxford’s very own Greta will emerge from this competition for an eye catching banner that highlights the effects of air pollution outside the school gates. The world’s top scientists, many of them based here in Oxford, say we truly need to have rapidly cut carbon emissions by 2030, the year when these schoolchildren will be ending their teenage years, with their lives and possibility before them. With this competition we hope to be building not just a zero carbon city, but zero carbon citizens.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford
"Cleaning up the air quality in our city is everyone's responsibility, and we are very happy to help and encourage schools to get involved in this work. Young children are particularly at risk from air pollution, so better air quality around schools must be a priority."
Chris Church, Oxford Friends of the Earth
Schools that are interested in entering the competition and would like more information can contact Oxford City Council’s Air Quality Team at [email protected]