Unique collaboration launches 'Clean Air for Schools' program in the UK

The Philips Foundation, a charitable organization set up in 2014 by global health technology leader Royal Philips to provide access to care for disadvantaged communities, has today launched the ‘Clean Air for Schools’ program with Global Action Plan (GAP), a leading environmental charity and the University of Manchester, a leading research institute of air quality.

The program is the largest of its kind to be launched in the UK, with 20 participating schools and 6000 students to be included in the 10-month study. The program aims to support schools to improve air quality as well as understand for the first time the impact of air pollution in schools by studying the varying levels of air quality in classrooms and how this affects school children.

Through tailor-made teaching resources for schools that support the national curriculum and the installation of air purifiers in classes, the Philips Foundation and GAP will work with Manchester University as part of a concurrent research project to monitor the changes in air quality from purification and education. This is whilst purifying the air of the classrooms to remove toxins, viruses and pollutants. The program will investigate changes in children’s health and academic performance. The findings of the research will inform a groundbreaking framework designed to help schools across the UK create clean air plans to reduce pollution and protect students.

The University of Manchester will provide air monitoring equipment and analysis to help independently understand the state of air pollution in schools, analyzing the levels of pollutants in including PM 2.5, PM 10, CO2, NOx and Ozone. The team will also track for any improvements that arise from behavior change amongst the children, teachers and parents following the use of educational activities about reducing air pollution.

According to analysis carried out by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, nitrogen dioxide can be linked to 1,200 deaths a year in Greater Manchester. Air pollution causes heart and lung diseases and can be linked to low birth weight and impedes children’s lung development – making the issue of air pollution a pressing one for the city.

The launch of the program took place on 18th October 2019, at Russell Scott Primary School in Denton, one of the 20 participating schools. The launch saw the Philips Foundation, GAP, and representatives from The University of Manchester address students, teachers and members of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to explain how students will be involved.

Speaking at the launch, Mark Leftwich, Director, Personal Health, Philips UKI & Philips Foundation said:

Air pollution is the invisible bully in our schools today, harming the physical and mental health of our students, and impeding their full ability to learn. The current levels of air pollution inside and out of UK classrooms is a social injustice and it has the potential to leave as lasting an impact on today’s generation as obesity and cancer. This urgent threat to our children’s health requires an urgent response, which is why we are launching this program today. Working together with other change agents such as Global Action Plan and the University of Manchester, we have the ability to act now to better protect this generation of school children.

This program is not just a story about innovation and technology. It is about directly improving the quality of air school children are breathing. It is our intention for research findings to provide an evidence base for policymakers and schools across the country to understand which positive actions should be taken to best improve air quality in and around schools across the country.”

Echoing Mark Leftwich’s comments, Chris Large, Senior Partner of Global Action Plan, commented:

The health trauma of dirty air is clear; long-term exposure to high air pollution can lead to kids getting asthma and stunt lung growth. Teachers and parents are right to be worried but need robust and clear guidance on what can be done to clean up the air. The ‘Clean Air for Schools’ program will equip any headteacher, governor, or concerned parent in the UK with a clear framework for action to reduce pollution in their communities. We already know that young people are powerful changemakers and this program will make sure that students have the resources to play their part in cleaning up the air their schools."

Dr. Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at leading research partner The University of Manchester added:

We’re proud today to be launching the ‘Clean Air for Schools’ program here in Greater Manchester. Drawing on research through our new air quality supersite and Manchester Urban Observatory, we’re excited to be a part of a truly cross-sector collaboration that brings together the skillsets of the private sector, charity, local public sector and our University right here in our city. The program will add to the growing body of research into air quality and its impacts on communities – and through this collaboration we will be able to make a practical difference to what schools and communities across the UK can do to tackle air quality."

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