A London prep school has spent tens of thousands on filters to combat pollution – but not all heads can pay for clean air
Tue 22 May 2018
It is a bright spring morning in west London. There’s a light wind, the sky is blue, studded with puffed white clouds, and the air seems – for the capital at least – clear and fresh. It is not. Overhead heavy traffic snakes along the raised carriageway of the A40 Westway while at ground level a stream of buses, cars and lorries passes by ceaselessly.
Notting Hill Preparatory (NHP) school in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea is situated on a busy main road just a stone’s throw from the flyover. It may be one of the capital’s most fashionable private schools, but it is not immune from the blight of air pollution.
According to Greenpeace research, NHP is one of more than 2,000 schools in England and Wales, near busy roads, where children are exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles. Another piece of research recently showed that every London inhabitant is breathing air that exceeds global guidelines for one of the most toxic particles, PM2.5.
And last week the UK and five other countries were referred to the European court of justice – Europe’s highest court, which can impose multimillion-euro fines – for failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution. Across Europe toxic air causes 400,000 early deaths.
Dangerous pollution levels are a worry for all parents, but at NHP (where annual fees are £19,065 and former pupils include the children of Earl Spencer and of Richard Curtis and his wife, Emma Freud) the leadership team decided to invest tens of thousands of pounds on installing high-performance air filtration systems to improve the quality of the air.