Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Parents get the message about not idling car engines

Parents get the message about not idling car engines

A CAMPAIGN to encourage parents not to leave their car engines running outside schools in Henley is succeeding, according to the organiser.

David Dickie, a member of Henley in Transition, has visited the town’s four state primary schools and the independent Rupert House and St Mary’s schools over the past year to warn children about the dangers of air pollution.

He and his volunteers gave talks and led activities encouraging children to walk, cycle or take the bus to school and to ask their parents to switch off their engines while waiting outside.

They also approached families at pick-up and drop-off times to explain the harm caused by nitrogen dioxide and fuel particulates, which cause respiratory illnesses. Last week, Mr Dickie returned to Badgemore Primary School in Hop Gardens to learn how pupils were keeping the campaign going.

They said they were discussing environmental issues during lessons, including the use of disposable plastic, and now walked to school more often.

Mr Dickie, 75, of St Katherine’s Road, Henley, said: “When I ask an assembly hall to put up their hands if they have asthma, at least 20 per cent of the children do so and I think that speaks volumes.

“It was evident at the start that many parents were idling their engines outside schools and we’ve seen a change in that behaviour, though it hasn’t stopped by any means. The schools have all embraced this campaign as it helps children to get the message through to their parents and many people have volunteered to help.

“The children have enjoyed taking part and it has started a discussion, although it will need to be repeated many times before we see a change in people’s behaviour.”

Olivia Robinson, 10, who is in year 5, said: “I now walk to school from my mum’s house and cycle from my dad’s instead of being driven. Lots of my friends do it too and it’s good because you get some exercise as well as saving the planet.”

Oscar Princivalle, 11, who is in year 6, said: “I was shocked to learn how polluted Henley is because it’s a country town and you think it’s going to be really clean.

“I really enjoy walking to school because you feel like you’ve used some of your energy and you’re more relaxed when you get there.”

Assistant headteacher Tim Hoskins said: “Air pollution is such a huge problem that it can feel scary to talk about but we have to start somewhere and we’re very proud that the children are making a difference.”

Stefan Gawrysiak, who chairs the town council’s transport strategy group, said: “This is just one piece of a bigger puzzle that fits in with other measures like a 20mph speed limit and a 7.5 tonne weight limit in the town centre.

“No-idling zones are a practical step we can take towards improving our air quality and I’m pleased that people are supporting the idea.”

The project has so far cost about £1,600 and has been funded by the council and Henley in Transition.

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