Only 40 schools in England have set up areas that are closed to cars during drop-off and pick-up times to protect children from toxic emissions.
A new report from UK100, a network of local leaders that campaigns for clean air, reveals only 0.4% of primary schools and 0.1% of secondary schools have set up so-called “school streets” to help reduce emissions at certain times of the day, despite calls from the government to ban polluting vehicles outside schools.
It adds FOI responses from 132 councils in England found around 80% of those who responded cited financing or resources to be a challenge for their area.
The report says one of the main challenges to school streets outside London is the lack of resources and powers for local councils to enforce a ban on parents driving to school.
According to official statistics from the Department for Transport, nearly half (45%) of all primary school children are driven in a car or van, an increase from 40% in 2009.
Polly Billington, Director of UK100 said: “One of the biggest barriers to more children walking and cycling to school ironically is fear of traffic. By having a calm, quiet environment around school it will send an important message to encourage parents not to drive during the school run.
“But government needs to support councils by giving them the powers and resources to enforce school streets, as well as investing in public transport and measures to encourage walking and cycling.”
Henrietta Rooney, a parent involved in setting up a school street at Bessemer Grange Primary in Southwark, South London said the initiative has had a “huge and positive impact” on the environment around the school.
She added: “It’s more enjoyable to walk to school now that the traffic risks have been removed, parents have commented on how different and relaxed it is. One of the biggest differences is that you no longer hear parents shouting at their children to stay out of the road. Personally, the change that I have noticed the most is the increase in the number of older children walking to school by themselves.”
Haimo Primary School in Greenwich, which was listed as one of London’s 50 most polluted primary schools, is said to have seen a 54% reduction in the number of children being driven to school following the implementation of a school street.