A NEW campaign has been launched to help improve the air quality outside Dorset schools.

BCP Council, Public Health Dorset (PHD) and walking and cycling charity Sustrans have launched a ‘Clean Air Schools’ campaign which aims to reduce engine idling outside schools.

The campaign will highlight the impact of leaving a car’s engine running when parked, with the hope of encouraging parents and other motorists to switch off their engines when their cars are parked or waiting in traffic, particularly when near to a school.

A pilot campaign is now underway at six Dorset Schools- Christchurch Infants, Christchurch Juniors, Winton Primary, Bethany Juniors, Canford Heath Infants and Canford Heath Juniors- and has included classroom workshops, idling counts and science investigations.

The project is also developing a ‘Clean Air Schools’ toolkit to help other schools across the BCP area to learn about air quality.

Cllr Nicola Greene, BCP Council’s portfolio holder for education said: “People idling their engines, particularly outside schools, is already recognised as a problem.

“We hope that this grass roots initiative will not only teach our children about the issues associated with air quality and car-idling, but they in turn will tell their parents about what they learned, which will hopefully encourage drivers to turn off their engine when their cars aren’t moving and lead to improved air quality outside our schools.”

Kate Salter from Sustrans said: “We’ve been really impressed by how enthusiastic local school children have been when learning about the air they breathe and the negative impact of engine idling on air quality."

Rachel Partridge, deputy director at Public Health Dorset, said: “We know that exposure to air pollution, including from vehicle emissions, can lead to increased risk of several short- and long-term health conditions including asthma, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.

“Children living in environments with higher levels of air pollution, the majority of which comes from vehicles, can be particularly susceptible to developing these health problems.

“That is why it is really important to work together on a range of initiatives to improve air quality, including reducing vehicle emissions and promoting active and sustainable travel, around schools and school routes.”