More than a dozen East Sussex schools are taking part in a challenge to encourage cycling and walking to school.
But one Newhaven school is to take it one step further by closing the road outside the school this morning (March 25) to improve air quality and safety outside the school gates.
Denton Community Primary School is one of 39 schools across UK taking part in the School Streets event today.
Guy Walsh, headteacher at Denton Primary, said: “School Streets is a very exciting and innovative opportunity for us to help the environment, promote the health and well-being of our pupils, and for us to positively engage with the local community. We hope that the project will be a real success and inspire other schools to take part in the future.”
The event is part of the wider Big Pedal challenge, a competition promoting cycling, walking and scooting to school.
Angellica Bell, who is backing the Big Pedal campaign, said: “I’m delighted to be supporting this year’s Big Pedal. It’s a fantastic way to encourage more children to cycle, walk or scoot – doing wonders for their health and the environment around them.
“I hope as many schools as possible sign up for the challenge and inspire children and families across the UK to get on their feet, scooter of bike for their journey to school.”
New research shows four in ten children are breathing toxic air at school, leaving pupils at an increased risk of developing lifelong conditions including asthma. Walking and cycling can play a key role in improving air quality outside the school gates while helping to boost children’s activity levels.
That's why Denton Community Primary School is also taking part in the School Streets campaign, which will see schoolchildren reclaim the road outside their schools.
It comes after a survey of UK teachers found nearly two-thirds want car-free roads outside schools around pick-up and drop-off times.
Walking and cycling charity Sustrans, which runs the Big Pedal and School Streets, has called on the Government to support local authorities to close school streets during the school run to cut emissions.
The YouGov poll also found more than half of those surveyed want the Government to take urgent action to improve air quality near schools.
James Cleeton, Sustrans director for the South of England, said: “We’re delighted that Denton Primary school in East Sussex have joined schools across the UK to demonstrate the potential of closing school streets to vehicles. We need to radically change the way we travel - idling car engines and snarled up roads poison the air our children breathe.
“For too long now, dangerous levels of air pollution near schools have been ignored. Finally this is starting to change. Our survey makes it clear that teachers want urgent action to clean up toxic fumes. They see closing the roads outside their schools to vehicles whilst opening them for people as an effective solution but need support from local authorities to enact change.
“We’re grateful East Sussex County Council has supported these street closures and we will continue to work in partnership to encourage the council to implement permanent school street closures during the school run, as part of the measures to reduce air pollution and create a safer environment for families to walk and cycle. The UK Government must support local authorities and implement clean air legislation to tackle motorised traffic, including large scale investment in walking and cycling to enable more people to choose active and cleaner ways to travel for local journeys.”
More than a dozen schools in the area have signed up for the two-week Big Pedal challenge to walk, cycle and scoot to school.
These are the schools taking part in The Big Pedal:
Annecy Catholic Primary School, Seaford
Cradle Hill Community Primary School, Seaford
Denton Community Primary School, Newhaven
Ditchling (St Margaret's) Church of England Primary School, Ditchling
Harbour Primary & Nursery School, Newhaven
Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath
High Cliff Academy, Newhaven
Langney Primary School, Eastbourne
Meridian Community Primary School and Nursery, Peacehaven
Polegate Primary School, Polegate
Roselands Infants' School, Eastbourne
Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, Hastings
Seaford Head School, Seaford
Seaford Primary School, Seaford
St Leonard's Church of England Primary Academy, Hastings
St Mary Magdalene Primary School, Brighton
St Richards Catholic College, Bexhill
West Rise Junior School, Eastbourne
West St Leonards Primary Academy, St Leonards