Southwark Council is launching an air quality audit of its schools most affected by toxic air, in a new programme the biggest of its kind for a local authority in the UK.

Following a year’s worth analysis of the borough’s air quality monitors, 24 schools were shown to be in areas where nitrogen dioxide limits exceeded average EU limits.

These schools, as well as all council primary schools and schools in the Old Kent Road area, will now be audited and shown ways to reduce school children’s exposure to toxic air and how it can be improved.

This includes looking at means of travel to school, as well as encouraging children to be active, healthy, and knowledgeable about sustainable travel.

Speaking on Thursday’s clean air day, Cllr Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency, said: “Children and other vulnerable people are our top priority when it comes to cleaning up Southwark’s air and these audits will get directly to the root of the problem in schools which are most in need.

“Our school audits will compliment all the work that is already happening across Southwark, including road closures outside schools, engine idling fines, and help installing green screens and planting. These audits will help to show how emissions could be reduced and children’s exposure to air pollution can be limited, around our worst affected schools.”

Southwark has already introduced a number of clean air initiatives, including shutting off roads outside schools at drop off and pick up times, as well as fining drivers who keep engines running when cars are stationary.

Old Kent Road area is seeing major regeneration with 1500 new homes approved by the planning committee this month.