SCHOOL children from Russell Scott Primary, Denton, led activities across Tameside to promote the recent Clean Air Week.
Pupils took to the streets outside their school as Junior PCSOs to tackle idling cars, a large contributor to air pollution.
The patrols were among a wide number of events across Tameside to support Clean Air Week and raise awareness of Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) Clean Air Conversation.
The Junior PCSO scheme, first initiated by Russell Scott Primary in April 2017 and rolled out to other local schools, has proven so successful it was championed by TfGM to schools across the region as part of wider Clean Air Week events.
Russell Scott Primary closed off the road for the day so pupils could take over the street to hold a fete, which included cycling and scooter lessons.
Headteacher Steve Marsland said: “We wanted to win back the street and tell the community the world doesn’t stop when a road is closed.
“It showed roads can be closed and children can ride scooters on them. We even had alpacas on the road.”
Mr Marsland added by educating children and parents, the school has had an 80 per cent increase in children walking to school in the last 18 months.
He pointed out they were the first school to trial junior PSCOs and they have now been rolled out across the country and even been reported overseas in a newspaper in Nigeria.
Mr Marsland said while Russell Scott Primary was last year named Greater Manchester school of the year for PE and sport, their children learn in an unhealthy environment close to the M60 motorway and Crown Point North shopping centre.
He continued: “Children in London walking to school were found to have particles of worn tyres and brake dust in their lungs.
“We know the deadly effects caused by asbestos and coal dust while in our town it was particles in fur from felt that killed and caused blindness.
“We don’t know the long-term effects of this type of pollution, though we know there are higher cases of asthma in towns than elsewhere.
“At the time we didn’t know the effects asbestos.
“We could be killing our own silently and invisibly.”
Mr Marsland added the key is educating children as they will be the decision-makers of the future.
He said: “Green issues are part of our curriculum and children learn about plastics, pollution and the rain forests.
“We cannot affect the Amazon and can blame councils and government.
“We must also look at ourselves and do small things locally like leaving the car at home for the school run or buying your child a scooter.
“They may only be small changes but they are significant ones locally.”
Russell Scott is also partnering Manchester University for an in initiative aimed at making it more green around their school.
TfGM held an electronic bike roadshow and free cycle health checks in Ashton Market Square to promote making cleaner journeys by bike.
Meanwhile, Tameside Council licensing officers visited taxi ranks across the borough and spoke to cab drivers about switching engines off and also raise awareness of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan proposals.
The plan proposes a package of measures to significantly reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from the most polluting road vehicles, which are linked to a range of serious health problems and reduced life expectancy.
The council has held a number of Clean Air Conversation engagement events to help involve residents in having their say, including drop-ins at Ashton Library, Tameside Hospital and neighbourhood forum meetings.
Cllr Allison Gwynne, Tameside Council executive member for neighbourhood services, attended the event at Russell Scott Primary as well as speaking to taxi drivers about the Clean Air Plan.
She said: “Air pollution at the roadside is one of the biggest threats to our health so it is essential that each and every one of us plays our part in taking action to do something to tackle it.
“A great place to start is for everyone to drop at least one car journey a week – walk to school and the local shops, cycle to work, it will all contribute to making a difference in cleaning up the air in our neighbourhoods.
“I’m proud to see Tameside children leading the way in getting this message, which will help improve everyone’s health, out there and I hope it will inspire people to do their bit.”
• Civic Mayor Cllr Leigh Drennan, while attending Clean Air Day at Russell Scott, performed the official opening of a new £15,000 adventure playground which was funded by events at school and from donations.
It is a wooden structure to be environmentally friendly and the climbing equipment is built among trees, a contrast to the sea of concrete and steel around the school according to Mr Marsland.
Kerb stones and drain sleeves from Wilton Street, the site of Crown Point North where the old Russell Scott Primary was based, were used to create a Stonehenge seating area and also a dragon’s lair.