There's some good news for those concerned about the health risks caused by high levels of air pollution at the school. Mr Gascoigne has responded to concerns voiced by parents and asked the school architects to redesign the London Road entrance to reduce exhaust gases onto the school site. This follows the advice of Professor Frank Kelly, a leading air pollution expert, who was kind enough to give a talk to Tiffin and Kingston Grammar School parents. We very much appreciate this positive action by the Head, the cost of which has to be borne by the school, and remain hopeful of supporting action by Kingston Council and TfL. A drawing of the proposed entrance redesign, taken from the council's website is shown above.
Media coverage has highlighted the problem of air pollution in Kingston and other urban areas across the country. With two main roads just outside the gates, Tiffin is significantly affected and was placed at 51 on a list of the 100 Most Polluted Secondary Schools in London. (A report to the GLA in 2013, using data from 2010. ) This information was made public by the Mayor of London in July 2016.
The two most harmful components of air pollution are nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM). These microscopic particles originate from diesel, petrol and the brake and clutch linings of vehicles. PM10 refers to particles of 10 micrometers and less; PM2.5 to those of 2.5 micrometers or less. Broadly, the smaller a particle, the more danger it represents because they can be breathed in. Nitrogen dioxide is a harmful gas produced by burning fossil fuels - particularly diesel in car engines.
In its report "Every breath we take" the Royal College of Physicians concluded that air pollution in the UK is responsible for 40,000 premature deaths every year. Health impacts include lung disease, heart disease, asthma, cancer, stroke and mental illness. Most recently it has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes. Sad to say, children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Air pollution in many parts of London exceed legal limits and this is also true of Kingston.
A number of parents have expressed concern about this issue and initially arranged a meeting with Mr Gascoigne to discuss. He was kind enough to arrange a meeting with Council Leader Kevin Davis on September 23rd, which was attended by seven Tiffin parents. Mr Davis outlined what is, and is not, within the council's power and shared plans for the long term improvement in air quality for Kingston.
In the shorter term, parents are hopeful that the proposed redesign of the London Road entrance will mitigate the problem, hopefully augmented by a green screen of vegetation at the wall, and possibly at other points around the perimeter. Some plants are surprisingly effective at filtering particles from the air.
Mr Davies, at the council outlined some other suggestions which include the possibility of vehicles cutting their engines while stationary outside the school. Air quality monitoring inside and outside the school would show if these measures were effective. That said, we are not aware of any positive measures that the council has so far put in place to protect the school from exhaust gases. You might wish to contact Councillor Kevin Davies at Kingston Council to discover what progress is being made. We can pass on an email address if you need it. Attempts to contact TfL, who are responsible for the major roads around the school, have been frustrating. Enquiries have been passed on with no response at all.
If you would like to get updates on the issue of air pollution at the school, sign up to our email list on this page. We also have a WhatsApp group "Tiffin Air Quality".