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Crawley pupils reduce local CO2 by Three Tonnes

In just two weeks Crawley school children reduced local air pollution by six kilogrammes of dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost three tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by walking, biking and scootering to school, instead of travelling by car.

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Pupils at Waterfield Primary School with Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability and Patrick Alexander, Bike It Officer at Sustrans.

As part of cycling and walking charity Sustrans’ annual Big Pedal challenge, children from eight Crawley schools used human power for an astonishing 18,284 journeys. 

This comes hard on the heels of two important new pieces of research:

  • Sustrans published YouGov data in March which showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of teachers would support a school gate vehicle ban during drop-off and pick-up times and that more than half (59%) want urgent Government action to improve air quality near schools
  • Public Health England called on local authorities in March to limit transport emissions urgently, banning idling car engines around schools and investing in foot and cycle paths.

NOx can cause breathing problems, reduced lung function and damage teeth. CO2 is a major contributor to climate change. In Crawley children travelled 12,655 miles actively during the challenge, which equates to travelling almost half way around the world. The reduction in CO2 and NOx was calculated by comparing this to the amount generated if all these journeys had been taken by car.

Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability, said:

“It is fantastic to see an increasing number of schools in Crawley taking part in the Sustrans Big Pedal, whilst promoting sustainable travel to young people.”

Children at Waterfield Primary have won special recognition from Sustrans for their Big Pedal achievements, receiving a certificate in a presentation attended by Cllr Geraint Thomas. The Bike It Crew at Waterfield Primary are notoriously competitive. They held a Bike It Breakfast, Bling your Bike and daily assemblies to mass up a total of 4,386 journeys and a total score of 76.91%. 

Justin Moss, the Deputy Head of Waterfield Primary said,

“Our pupils are so motivated when it comes to travelling sustainably; they’re also very competitive. They walk, scoot and cycle regularly so the Big Pedal has been amazing for us over the past few years. We regularly talk about the benefits of exercise with the children in whole school assemblies and because of this the children understand the differences it can make to their moods and their ability to engage in their learning.

“At Waterfield we have an elected Bike It Crew and the Big Pedal is their biggest job during the year. They have worked tirelessly to encourage teachers and children to continue to travel sustainably as well as organising events and judging the Bling your Bike competition. I am extremely proud of them and all of their achievements this year.”

Hot on their heels was Seymour Primary, who organised Bike Days for all children from years three to six. These days provided an opportunity for children to progress their bike skills and have a go on the bike obstacle course. On these days the school was flooded with bicycles, scooters and active children.

Across Crawley eight schools took part, from a potential 35. While we can’t say what the impact would be if it was replicated across Crawley even just for two school terms these findings raise interesting questions.

Sustrans’ Regional Director for the South, James Cleeton, said,

“The children, families and schools of Crawley have shown how individuals can dramatically improve the world around them, by replacing cars with human power for just part of the daily routine.

“These children haven’t just prevented the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but they’ve improved their mental and physical health, giving all of them a better start to the school day.

“At Sustrans, we’re so grateful to every local authority, school, teacher, parent and child who has helped make this possible. What a great start to summer – and a glimpse of what school mornings in Crawley could be like in future.”

Education

‘Reckless’ National Education Union attacks West Sussex Council over schools reopening

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The National Education Union has spoken out saying they have been frustrated by the ‘reckless’ approach they say West Sussex County Council has taken towards the safety of its members on the matter of schools re-opening more widely.

Joint NEU West Sussex Branch Secretary Ann Seuret said:

“It is disappointing that the local authority has referred to a ‘phased re-opening’ because schools have been open throughout the lockdown, where our members have been working on the front line, providing a vital service for vulnerable children and those of key-workers whilst they protect us from this awful disease.”

They say that contrary to the views expressed by some politicians in the county, The National Education Union is consulting on a wider re-opening of schools and is using a detailed checklist endorsed by the other education unions, which follows the structure of the government’s own guidance, to do so. They add that every school needs to consult in good time to fulfil its statutory obligations, and many are only at the beginning of that process.

It has now been confirmed to the NEU that many schools in West Sussex will NOT open more widely on June 1st despite the council claiming that they will. This follows widespread concern from heads in West Sussex wanting reassurances from government.

NEU Regional Officer, James Ellis said:

“The National Education Union wants children to return to school as soon as possible, but only when it is safe. Our five tests set out some reasonable criteria by which to measure this, and they have not been met. We still do not know the rate of infection (the R rate) in the county, or whether or not children are less likely than adults to pass on the infection. Schools are not able to keep children two metres apart, and this is acknowledged in the government guidance. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has concluded that there is no evidence that age affects the likelihood of being infected with Covid19, so we cannot understand why children are not required to social distance. Whilst testing has been increased nationally, our members are not confident that the ability yet exists across West Sussex to isolate cases and successfully contact, track, and trace them. This system just isn’t ready yet, and so we believe West Sussex County Council is acting too hastily. This stands in marked contrast to other councils who are taking a more cautious approach to only open more widely when the scientific data shows it is safe to do so. Despite this recklessness many West Sussex schools are sensibly deciding that 1st June is too soon.”

Primary schools in West Sussex which have already confirmed they will not yet open more widely on June 1st include:

  • all schools run by The University of Brighton Academies Trust: Lindfield, Blackthorns, Holmbush, Pound Hill, Desmond Anderson, and it’s secondary: Burgess Hill Academy
  • all schools run by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT): Broadfield Primary Academy, Hilltop Primary School, Portfield Primary Academy, Seal Primary Academy, Seymour Primary School, Tangmere Primary Academy, The Bewbush Academy, The Mill Primary Academy, The Oaks Primary School,  and it’s secondaries: Chichester High School,  Thomas Bennett Community College and The Academy, Selsey,
  • Southgate Primary School


In addition, Headteachers at Crawley Secondary Schools: Ifield Community College, Holy Trinity School, St Wilfrid’s, Oriel High School Hazelwick and The Gatwick School
– have taken the unusual step of issuing a joint statement.

In it they said:

“As a group of secondary Headteachers of the schools in Crawley we have unanimously agreed that no students will be in school (other than those for childcare) any earlier than 15th June… We have come to this position in order to act responsibly for the welfare of the school and local community.”

NEU West Sussex Joint Branch Secretary and Health and Safety Officer, Anne Barker said:

“For the National Education Union it is not about an arbitrary date, but uppermost in our considerations is the safety of our members, the children in their care, and their families. The statutory obligations of employers to meaningfully consult on risk assessments is clear.

This means there has to be enough time to explain the issues to our members, time for them to consider and make informed responses, and time for employers to take into account their response before making a final decision.

We are ready to do that on the basis of our five tests and our checklist, but schools must let go of this arbitrary June 1st date. Mr Ellis added, “If schools do push ahead to open more widely on June 1st we will advise members that we do not believe it is safe for them to attend work and that we are not satisfied that the employer has met their obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act. Any member subjected to a detriment as a consequence of not attending work will be vigorously defended by our union.”

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