Denton school’s idea to fight pollution goes worldwide

A DENTON primary school’s idea to put kids in charge of making sure the environment they enter and leave every day may be about to go worldwide.

Russell Scott Primary’s location among housing, retail and commercial units meant it was often clogged up by cars of parents dropping off and picking up youngsters.

But headteacher Steve Marsland had enough after seeing more and more pupils suffering from asthma or carrying inhalers.

He made 10 ‘PCSOs’ whose job it was to make sure people did not sit on cars with their engines running, further flooding the air with fumes.

And the effect has gone well beyond the boundaries of Denton.

The BBC has featured them twice nationally on the Radio Five Live breakfast show and on Radio Four show Costing the Earth.

Mr Marsland also hopes seeing what they do on the corporation’s website can lead to similar schemes popping up in other countries.

He said: “I think, ‘What the hell is going on? We’re gassing out kids and throwing rubbish into the rivers. This is our legacy for the next generation and it’s all wrong.’

“I’ve been a headteacher for 25 years and the number of children in schools has increased dramatically. So has the number with asthma or carrying inhalers. I ask, ‘Who’s got an inhaler?’ and lots of kids put their hands up, more than ever.

“We’ve got 10 children who go out there every morning or afternoon, whether it’s raining, sleeting, snowing or cracking the flags.

“It’s not just pollution either, inconsiderate parking is a problem and we’ve given the kids themselves the responsibility to do something about it. It’s an important life lesson that hopefully has a long lasting effect.

“You can’t get bigger than the BBC, in this country anyway, The website is viewed thousands of times an our by people all around the world and we were the number one searched for article when it came out.

“Millions of people would have seen it and many of them will have kids and will be parking around schools. It may have jolted one or two consciences and they may think, ‘Actually, we don’t need to have that around our kids.’”

As well as the recent BBC interest, which saw Countryfile’s Tom Heap visit the Clare Street site to interview pupils, staff and parents, other schools in Tameside are taking on the PCSO scheme.

Russell Scott pupils were also recently asked to attend a green summit by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, where they discussed environmental issues with leading experts.

“It’s been good that people have seen that actually we’re looking after the health and safety of our children,” added Mr Marsland.

“It’s a great initiative and it’s going outside of Denton. It’s already being introduced to other schools in Tameside who are experiencing similar problems.

“Posters are being distrusted and our PCSOs are meeting with children from other schools to talk about how they do it because approaching parents can be a pretty nervy thing.

“There’s no scientific evidence yet but they’re meant to be coming out soon with equipment to measure the pollution levels.

“However, just from looking with my eyes, I can see the number of cars has dropped dramatically.

“There used to be cars parked up, ones idling while people listened to the radio or kept warm – you’d see row after row of them, especially in the afternoon where people would try and get a spot so they could get a quick getaway.

“At times, it was like something off an episode of Wacky Races.

“What we have done is bringing more awareness of the problem of pollution. It’s our own parents who are polluting our own children.

“These kids are the parents of tomorrow, so anything we can teach them about the dangers of it and what causes it, the better.”

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