Nova eina per valorar la seguretat i la qualitat ambiental dels entorns escolars

New Tool for Assessing Safety and Environmental Quality of School Environments

14.10.2021
Zona pacificada davant Escola Doctor Ferran i Clua_Monica Moreno
Photo: Mònica Moreno / Barcelona City Council - Pacified area in front of the Doctor Ferran i Clua school, Barcelona.

[This text has been published originally on Espai S@alut, a Diputació de Barcelona's newsletter.]

Until a few decades ago, most Spanish children—in villages and cities alike—were able to walk to school alone and play outside without adult supervision. Nowadays, this freedom of movement has been drastically curtailed by an urban model that prioritises mobility via private vehicle, to the detriment of children’s lives, development opportunities and health.

At the Mobility and Childhood Seminar working group, we believe that, in addition to safety concerns, it is important to highlight other impacts on air quality and public space that influence children’s development and health. Moreover, the health emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of sustainable mobility in reducing traffic, pollution, noise and so on.

At the Mobility and Childhood Seminar working group, we believe that, in addition to safety concerns, it is important to highlight other impacts on air quality and public space that influence children’s development and health

During lockdown, motor vehicle use fell sharply and activity came to a standstill. Consequently, pollution decreased significantly across Spain, with NO2 levels plummeting in the country’s main cities by 58%. Unfortunately, as soon as restrictions were lifted, pollution levels began climbing once again, returning to pre-lockdown levels.

 

Pacified area in front of the Pia Balmes school, Barcelona / Mariona Gil (Barcelona City Council)

The Seminar is a working group made up of city planning, education, mobility management, road safety and public health professionals, as well as representatives of government agencies, universities, research centres, consulting firms, citizens’ groups (environmental, voluntary, educational, etc.) and non-governmental organisations involved in developing policies and programmes to promote active, safe and independent mobility for children, as well as defending children’s rights.

On the basis of insights from our work thus far, we have developed a number of materials and tools to improve the environmental quality and safety of school environments. Several months ago, we began compiling all of our output on the website www.entornosescolares.es

The group has been working and meeting annually since 2012. On the basis of insights from our work thus far, we have developed a number of materials and tools to improve the environmental quality and safety of school environments. Several months ago, we began compiling all of our output on the website www.entornosescolares.es, which is available in four languages. There you can find the manifesto of the Safe and Healthy School Environments initiative, which gave rise to a non-law proposal to submit to the Spanish parliament and a model motion to submit to city councils, with the aim of promoting steps towards making school environments safer and healthier (for example, eliminating parking areas from school facilities and the surrounding areas, reserving space for bicycle and skateboard parking, greening school grounds, etc.). Examples of good and bad practices, a social media kit and an informational brochure are also available (the latter two only in Spanish).

Self-Assessment Tool

The Seminar’s latest creation—and the one most likely to be of interest to city councils—is a self-assessment tool based on 11 indicators related to the proposals of the Safe and Healthy School Environments initiative. These indicators are designed to allow any municipality or stakeholder organisation to perform initial and periodic assessments (every two years) to determine the status of school environments and monitor their progress over time. The aim is to promote awareness about areas for improvement and work towards an “ideal” situation.

The Seminar’s latest creation—and the one most likely to be of interest to city councils—is a self-assessment tool based on 11 indicators related to the proposals of the Safe and Healthy School Environments initiative

It is important to note that these indicators are a simplification: many others could also be used. However, we believe that the indicators included in the tool are sufficient and feasible to apply. Moreover, they make it possible to ascertain the situation in each municipality, increase awareness about the need for concrete measures and provide suitable tools for making the necessary changes.

 

School path of Santa Agata street, Barcelona / Vicente Zambrano Gonzalez (Barcelona City Council)

How does it work? Municipalities interested in participating need only fill in an online form, indicating their contact details, the population of the municipality, the current number of students by age group in the municipality, the total number of schools by educational level, and the details of each school (Excel format: name of school, coordinates, total number of students, and whether the school provides primary or secondary education or both).

We encourage municipalities to get involved and conduct a self-assessment in order to gain a better understanding of their current situation and learn how the quality of the environment and of city life can be improved by improving school environments

These data are used to understand the characteristics of the participating municipalities, as well as to produce statistics. Municipalities must also indicate their level of compliance for each indicator (all are continuous variables except the 10th indicator). Two years after the first self-assessment, municipalities will be prompted to repeat the process, and so on into the future.

We encourage municipalities to get involved and conduct a self-assessment in order to gain a better understanding of their current situation and learn how the quality of the environment and of city life can be improved by improving school environments—like a domino effect!