Creating healthier spaces for London’s children to live, learn and play
Merton is one of 13 boroughs chosen to take part in the pan London project to set up School Super Zones. These are areas around schools – around a 5-10 minute walk – where we aim to create healthier and safer places for our children and young people to live, learn and play. The project is being rolled out across three schools in Merton, starting with Merton Abbey Primary School, and puts the participation of children, young people and families at the centre of planning and delivery. It is aligned with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), as well as some of London’s lead experts on evaluating complex health interventions.
It is known that being exposed to an unhealthy environment as a child can have a lasting impact on mental health, obesity, educational achievement and long-term conditions. Having healthy spaces and neighbourhoods is vital to giving children the best start in life and reducing health inequalities.
The aim of the Merton Abbey Primary School Super Zones project is to improve air quality around the school; increase journeys made by active travel modes to and from school; increase healthy options at local convenience stores; increase the use of local parks by pupils and teachers; and raise awareness and understanding about the environmental determinants of health in the vicinity of the school and thus raise awareness of public health and public health interventions.
Michael Bradley, Merton Abbey Primary School head teacher said:
The Superzone project has already helped our staff to connect with key professionals from the local authority and the wider community. We want our children to become active members of their own community, who make positive changes to their local area. The Superzones project has great potential to help us in that work’
Merton Abbey Primary School’s community, including pupils and parents, participated in three engagement workshops followed by a communal ‘walk home’ where participants took photos of the environment and talked about how it impacts on their wellbeing. Issues raised included traffic congestion around school gates at drop off and pick up times, air quality, safety concerns on walking routes due to poor lighting, under-use of green assets, litter, as well as lack of public art and community ownership of public spaces.
In response to this a number of actions were developed in partnership with the school community and council officers including anti-idling promotion, allowing the school to take ownership of a local park, and reviewing the placement of street lighting.
This first project will be evaluated in Summer 2020, and then rolled out to a further two schools.
For more information about the project please contact Merton’s Healthy Places Officer firstname.lastname@example.org.