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Since 2019, pupils from our Senior School Environment Committee have been campaigning for their right to have cleaner air on the school run. As Spring arrives with longer days, pupils are this week reminding everyone how small changes can make a big difference.

Road traffic pollutants are particularly harmful to children, while their lungs are still developing, and regular exposure is associated with increased risks of respiratory diseases (including asthma and lung cancer), type 2 diabetes and dementia. Earlier this year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a high air pollution alert across the capital and the continuing problem is estimated to cause thousands of premature deaths each year, lowering the average Londoner’s life expectancy by 16 months.

A key aim of the Clean Air Campaign is to discourage drivers from stopping and idling whilst dropping off/picking up children. They explain “During our Clean Air Week (27 – 31 Mar), we ask that pupils try to use a more sustainable mode of transport and avoid coming to school by any type of car (including electric ones if possible.) We hope that this initiative will raise awareness of this critical issue and enable pupils to enjoy the social, health and wellbeing benefits of walking, cycling or using public transport.”

Before and after school each day, Highgate pupils and staff have been visible on key roads around the school, handing out information leaflets about the pollution crisis and encouraging people to consider greener transport options. They have created banners to display at the main gates and in Central Hall and are offering incentives for cycling to school. Traffic surveys will take place around the school before and after the initiative to monitor the impact.

Year 11 pupil Kiran (left) has created resources based on Highgate’s campaign to share with other schools via the London Schools Eco Network. The Environment Committee have also engaged with other local schools in Highgate to work alongside them in reducing pollution and congestion in the area.

Highgate recently retained our Gold accreditation in Transport for London’s STARS initiative, putting us in the top 10% of London schools setting high standards to inspire others to transform travel habits.


Other sustainable improvements to Highgate’s transport provision include adopting the ’School Street’ scheme on Bishopswood Road in 2021 (reducing air pollution outside the Junior and Pre-Prep Schools), increasing the School bus service, and lobbying for the 214 bus to go electric. Walking Wednesdays have been popular with Pre-Prep and Junior School pupils for several years.

Top tips from the Environment Committee for more sustainable travel:

  • Walk, cycle or scoot to school as much as possible.
  • Take public transport or use the Highgate school bus.
  • Avoid coming to school by any type of motor vehicle (including electric ones if possible).
  • If no other option is available, park or drop off pupils at least a five-minute walk away from school so that you can walk the rest of the way.

Even this small change in behaviour will have a tangible positive impact on the pollution levels and congestion directly outside our school.