49% of UK school pupils ‘worried’ about air pollution

49% of UK school pupils are worried about air pollution near their school – an increase of ten percentage points since a similar survey ran in 2018, new figures have revealed.

A YouGov poll, commissioned by Sustrans, surveyed 1,305 pupils aged six to 15 years old across the UK about their attitudes towards air pollution and the climate crisis and the actions they think should be taken to help reduce the impact of poor air quality and climate change.

Of those surveyed, just over three fifths (62%) don’t think adults are doing enough to tackle climate change, with 71% of the pupils admitting to feeling worried about climate change, and just over half (53%) believing that adults don’t listen to children’s concerns about the topic.

Recognising that “transport makes more greenhouse gases in the UK than anything else. Private vehicle use, especially cars, makes up the biggest part of this”, switching to active modes of transport was seen amongst respondents as the best way to help reduce the impacts of both air pollution and climate change.

40% of pupils thought more people walking, cycling or scooting to school was the best way to bring down levels of air pollution near their school, and 38% thought that walking and cycling more for local journeys was the most important thing adults should be doing to tackle climate change overall.

The survey also revealed:
– Almost three fifths (57%) of pupils described the environment around their school as having too many cars
– 30% of pupils are ‘worried’ and 29% are ‘sad’ that transport makes more greenhouse gases in the UK than anything else, with private vehicle use, especially cars, making up the biggest part of this
– Seven times as many pupils want to cycle to school and five times as many want to scoot to school more than they currently do. Whilst 2% currently cycle, 14% want to, and whilst 2% currently scoot to school, 10% would like to

Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said: “The results of this survey highlight the responsibility we have to create a healthier, greener and fairer society for the generation coming after us. With a large number of cars on the road during the morning peak doing the school run, swapping everyday journeys such as how we travel to and from school from private cars to active modes of travel can help cut dangerous levels of air pollution in our towns and cities which have a detrimental impact on the environment.

“That’s why we’re asking local election candidates and elected officials to ensure that every child has the opportunity and confidence to walk, wheel, scoot or cycle safely to school, using high-quality walking and cycling routes and to accelerate the roll-out of school streets. Let’s ensure our recovery from Covid is greener, fairer and healthier for everyone.”

Dame Sarah Storey, active travel commissioner for the Sheffield City Region, added: “I am delighted to be at the launch of Big Pedal 2021, it is fantastic the event is running this year and I know it will have huge benefits to all who take part. It isn’t just beneficial to our physical health that we use short journeys as an opportunity to be active, but it supports our mental wellbeing too.

“Children from across the country have also shared their view on how damaging poor air quality can be and it is vital we use every opportunity we have to keep cars away from school gates and use active travel for as many of our short journeys as possible.”

The survey has been released to launch the Big Pedal 2021. Held annually by Sustrans, this year’s challenge will see more than half a million children and young people walk, cycle, scoot and wheel their journeys to and from school. For more information visit www.bigpedal.org.uk.

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