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Silvertown headteacher fears impact of air pollution

Linda-May Bingham, of Britannia Village Primary School, called for clear measures of pollution levels to help her tackle the issue.

“We’re trying to ensure that our pupils have access to fresh air, but the quality of the air at present is debatable,” she said.

“We would like to know what the air quality is so we can protect our pupils.”

Linda-May explained how her school, in Westwood Road, West Silvertown, is in a pollution hotspot with building work leading to a surge in heavy goods vehicles travelling up and down Silvertown Way and London City Airport on the doorstep.

“Visual indicators such as the grime on cars and the school building would suggest pollution levels must be high. If we were to find out it was at dangerous levels we could take decisions about how long children spend outside. We certainly wouldn’t have the option of relocating our play spaces,” she said. 

“I worry about the long term impact of them breathing in the air,.”

According to Greenpeace, air pollution can cause asthma and stunt lung growth by up to 10 per cent in children. 

To take action, Linda-May added her signature to a letter delivered on Tuesday last week to the Mayor of London in which more than 100 school leaders urged Sadiq Khan to protect youngsters from polluted air.

The letter, put together by Greenpeace, urged the mayor to bring in measures to tackle diesel vehicles and make good on promises to create a “robust” Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. He was also called on to make walking and cycling to school safer.

“Some pupils can cycle on a safe route to school, but we have to discourage pupils whose journey would be alongside the heavy traffic thundering along the main roads. It would be negligent of us to encourage this,” Linda-May explained.

In response to the campaign, Mr Khan announced funding for 50 air quality studies he hopes will help selected schools identify how to reduce the risks.

“Our pupils would be delighted to be one of the schools selected,” Linda-May said.