The Nature’s Helper Walls project, run by Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School Parents Association, has installed “walls” of ivy along the wire fencing of the school’s two playgrounds.

This project transpired as a response to the school’s pollution monitoring, which showed nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels exceeding legal limits. Parents and teachers were then determined to reduce risks to the students’ health by making the play area safer.

The Community Green Spaces Grant provided £20,000 for the Nature’s Helper Walls project. This funding supported the majority of the installation with approximately 78m of ivy screen and fibreglass. The wall is also fitted with drip-irrigation systems which automatically water three times a day (this can be adapted for dry or wet spells).

The school’s green living wall will help to improve air quality by providing a barrier between the playground and the source of pollution, therefore reducing exposure to toxic air. At Corpus Christi School, this will ultimately reduce health risks for the 450 children and 50 staff that use the playground. Other benefits to the school’s natural living wall include: increasing levels of biodiversity, creating a positive impact on peoples’ mental wellbeing, providing a natural play environment for students, supplying more privacy to the children and reducing noise pollution.

Bernie Butler Leyland, Project Lead:

The funding not only enables schools and charitable organisations to make London greener, but also healthier by improving air quality in areas which really need it. We have had so many parents and neighbours comment on how much better the greening looks and feels. Thank you for this opportunity and this wonderful legacy

The project has proven to be a huge success and a great educational experience for the students, who have been involved from the beginning, learning about pollution and how and why the green wall would help. The school has also created a “Green Committee” of students, parents and teachers, who will be responsible for the maintenance of the wall and increasing awareness of air quality issues.

The installation event itself took place over the weekend of the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, in which a member of staff lost her young niece. The school wanted to commemorate this in a positive way for the children to remember, so they started the initiative “Green for Grenfell”, where the children created green hearts and art work to hang up along with the ivy wall.

School Head Teacher:

I just want to say thank you to the Mayor’s Office for giving us the funding to deal with such a serious problem. There is a school down the road who undertook a similar project, and in just one year they have seen a reduction of 50% of pollution levels in their playground – fingers crossed we can report the same in a year’s time!

Since the creation of the living wall, other schools in Lambeth have been inspired to start planning their own. When asked what advice the school would give to similar projects, they suggested to first have a clear understanding of the air quality in the area with accurate data. This is a great way to get the local community passionate about ways to improve the air quality, and allows before and after readings so projects can measure their impact.

Students, parents and teachers alike are excited to see the future readings of pollution in the playground, and hope that their efforts will encourage other schools to install their own ivy walls.