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Environment

What are the current issues and problems?
Global warming
Air pollution
How can developing a School Travel Plan help?

What are the current issues and problems?

There is an increasing amount of traffic on the road each year, making simple journeys more time consuming and stressful. This increase in the use of cars can cause a number of environmental, social and health impacts. Some affect us directly - accident statistics show that our roads can be dangerous places, while traffic congestion can have adverse effects on our health and general well-being. Others are far less obvious but may have more far-reaching consequences. For example, the gases and chemicals released by engines contribute to global warming and air pollution.

Global warming

Emissions of CO2 have been falling since 1970 due to the increased efficiency in energy use and the use of alternative energy sources.1 However, despite improved technology and fuel efficiencies, transport is the only sector that shows an increase in CO2 emissions.

Air pollution

The increasing use of motor vehicles has an impact on the growth in local air pollution. Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulates – all of which are harmful to health when released into the environment.

  • Carbon monoxide - reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry causing sleepiness and headaches, as well as problems for people with breathing difficulties.

  • Oxides of nitrogen – irritants that make eyes water and damage the delicate tissue deep in the lungs.

  • VOCs – some compounds can cause cancer, others react with oxides of nitrogen to form ozone which damages lung tissue and causes breathing difficulties.

  • Soot particles – can cause lung damage.

Cartoon image of congestion.

How can developing a School Travel Plan help?

School Travel Plans look at and effect both the global and local environment.

  • Reducing the amount of traffic directly outside a school can have a positive effect on students as the reduction in noise can help them concentrate and hear their teachers better. The improvement in air quality will also make it a more pleasant environment for students to walk and cycle to and from school and reduce the negative health impacts of poor air quality.
  • Fewer cars parked outside schools provides a safer and a more aesthetically pleasing environment for the local residents and school community.
  • When working on a School Travel Plan, students will be considering their local environment and how they would like to improve it for the benefit of the whole community. 

A recent study has shown that children have a good grasp of a whole range of environmental issues but this needs to be furthered by exploring their own environment. The same study asked children how they would wish to improve their environment – it’s not surprising that the majority response was for there to be less traffic.2

The National Curriculum now includes Education for Sustainable Development and this can be linked with School Travel Plan work in a number of ways. (For further information please refer to Curriculum Links)

“Education for sustainable development enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.” (The National Curriculum, 1999 Government Panel for Sustainable Development Education)

1.     Environment Agency July 2004  

2.     A child’s place: why environment matters to children.  A Green Alliance/Demos report  May 2004