City Council produces toolkit for Oxford schools to teach about causes and impacts of air pollution

Published: Monday, 19th February 2018

Oxford City Council has produced an educational toolkit for primary and secondary schools in Oxford to teach children about the causes and impact of air pollution.

The air quality toolkit provides science teachers with a range of interactive activities, based both in the classroom and outdoors, for pupils and students.

Children will learn about lichen on trees (lichen is particularly sensitive to pollution and only certain types live in areas with good air quality); survey the number of idling cars at the school gates; and learn about the Peppered Moth, which evolved to change colour due to air pollution during the Industrial Revolution.

The City Council’s air quality monitoring officer will also be available to provide further information to schools and to lead assemblies.

The toolkit, which has been written to fit within schools’ existing science curriculums, will be sent to all Oxford primary and secondary schools tomorrow (20/2) and is already available on the City Council’s website.

The aim of the project is to increase awareness of poor air pollution around schools, and to begin sustained work in partnership with schools to find ways of improving the situation.

The toolkit is part of the City Council’s Schools Tackling Oxford’s Air Pollution (STOP) project.

The project, which launched last year, will see the City Council provide air quality monitoring equipment, alongside technical support, to enable students and pupils at six Oxford schools to measure pollution levels.

Children, alongside the elderly and those with lung conditions, are particularly susceptible to health problems caused by air pollution.

A 2016 report found that air pollution contributes to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. It found that, each year in the UK, outdoor air pollution causes around 40,000 deaths.

Despite a 36.9 per cent reduction in levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide across Oxford in the last decade, parts of the city centre are still failing to meet the legal limit on the pollutant.

In 2010, the entire city was declared an Air Quality Management Area and the City Council, working with partner organisations, produced an action plan to improve air quality.

Since then, the City Council, often jointly with Oxfordshire County Council, has introduced a raft of measures to reduce air pollution in Oxford, including proposing the world’s first Zero Emission Zone in the city centre, and winning £1.7m of Government funding to introduce electric buses in Oxford, £500,000 to install charging points for electric taxis and £800,000 to install 100 electric vehicle charging points for Oxford residents.

Councillor John Tanner, Executive Board Member for a Clean and Green Oxford, said: “We want Oxford’s children to understand the threat from pollution and help to create a future with clean air for everyone.

“Air pollution is invisible, but it can have a very damaging impact on the health of Oxford residents, particularly the young and most vulnerable. I hope this project helps raise awareness for this public health emergency.

“Every diesel and petrol vehicle driven into the centre of Oxford is contributing to the problem; everyone can do their bit to tackle Oxford’s toxic air pollution.”

To download the new toolkit, please visit the Schools Tackling Oxford's Air Pollution (STOP) page on our website.