Primary school children call on mayoral candidates to take urgent action on air pollution

A joint initiative by Asthma + Lung UK and the Clean Air Justice Network brought together politicians and students from five schools in Birmingham to discuss the future of clean air in the West Midlands.

As the Mayoral election approaches, five different schools and local politicians gathered to discuss the future of clean air in the West Midlands and how best to tackle the problem that impacts the health of so many residents.  

Organised by Asthma + Lung UK and the Clean Air Justice Network, the event which took place on Wednesday 20th March brought together students from a host of local schools including Alston Primary School, Woodthorpe Junior School, St. Saviour’s Primary School, Nechells E-ACT Primary, and Manor Park Primary Academy.  

Air pollution in the West Midlands exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by nearly 5x [1]. Asthma affects approximately 45,000 children across the region and was responsible for over 1,500 child emergency admissions in 2022-2023 alone [2, 3].  

The event gave local children the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask mayoral candidates questions about the region’s poor air quality. The Green Party candidate, Siobhan Harper-Nunes, and Sunny Virk, the Liberal Democrat candidate joined to answer questions from students on clean air, alongside local Birmingham councillors. All mayoral candidates were invited to attend. Those who attended spoke to the children at length about a range of local issues including school streets, active travel, and other measures that are key tools in combatting air pollution. The children also wrote messages on postcards to send to the candidates who were absent, urging them to prioritise clean air initiatives.  

Tim Dexter, Clean Air Lead at Asthma + Lung UK, said: "It's great to see how motivated the next generation are about clean air, and we need to see the same motivation from those making decisions across the West Midlands. This event gave children the valuable opportunity to challenge the candidates on their plans to tackle air pollution in the region. Air pollution in the West Midlands far exceeds WHO guidelines, and we need to see action from the future mayor to significantly improve air quality. " 

Sunny Virk, the West Midlands Liberal Democrat candidate, said: “Clean air is critical for both our future and future health of our children.  However, it is down to the politicians to promote policies that deliver that environment in a cost- effective manner. 

“I am keen that air quality across the West Midlands improves, and we see a real difference being made in people’s lives; the true measure of which will come in the form of increased life expectancy and reduction in cases of asthma and lung disease. We need real leadership across the West Midlands and not gimmicks.” 

The Green Party candidate, Siobhan Harper-Nunes, said: “It was a joy to see so many school children actively engaged in the Clean Air project with Asthma + Lung UK and the Clean Air Justice Network this week. The work they have been doing with schools across the city, is a positive step towards engaging our communities. However, that’s just one side of the equation. Air quality across our region, differs depending on where you live. This is unacceptable. It is the responsibility of the Combined Authority and all the local authorities within the region, to lead on and address as a matter of priority. It is an issue that will receive the attention it deserves should I win, and I commit wholeheartedly to putting this at the top of my list of priorities as Mayor of the West Midlands.” 

Mr Radford, Eco Council Leader and Year 5 teacher from Nechells E-ACT Primary Academy said: "It was great to see the children so actively involved in local community issues. With Nechells being so close to Spaghetti Junction and the M6 our children and school community are directly affected by air pollution."  

Mr Trevor, Deputy Headteacher Woodthorpe Juniors and Infants School, said: “It was wonderful for our children to listen to a variety of Mayoral candidates and ask them questions specifically about the importance of clean air and the impact it has upon the city of Birmingham. From an educational perspective, this is pupil voice and the growth of cultural capital at its finest.” 


1  Defra air quality compliance data 2022. Full data here:

2 Global Burden of Disease data, people aged 0-14 with asthma, 2019. Analysed by ALUK. Figure is for the seven West Midlands local authorities combined. Full data here: Copy of West Midlands data.xlsx  

3 ALUK bespoke data request from NHS England. Data covers 2022-2023. Figure includes Birmingham and Solihull ICB, Black Country ICB, Coventry + Warwickshire ICB. Full data here: Copy of West Midlands data.xlsx