School Superzones

By Fiona Fisher

Published: February 5, 2024

Mayor of London School Superzone

Clean air, active travel, healthy food, green spaces and safe communities... many of us aspire to see these positive health benefits wherever we live. It's a big challenge many of us are working hard to overcome in our various roles. But imagine how big a challenge this in a bustling city such as London with such a large population, commercial activity and levels of growth  especially with building developments. School Superzones are a novel approach which aims to create great healthy communities for everyone.

What are School Superzones?

School Superzones were first piloted by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in 2018 in 13 boroughs across London. The concept was to address multiple health impacts within a 400m radius of chosen schools. The scheme was deemed a success and has been rolled out again for 2022 and 2023 with 4 rounds of funding allocated to boroughs who successfully nominated schools which scored against multiple areas of deprivation.

The projects aim to connect teams within the borough to find solutions to issues in key areas, such as Air Quality, Active Travel, Healthy Food and Drink provision, Parks and Green Spaces and Community Safety. Each project lasts 12 months, with a great deal of focus on consultation with the school, parents and local community within the 400m zone. This consultation should reveal the priorities for each group and allow an action plan to be created to deliver improvements against some of the areas.

How do the Superzones Work?

Different boroughs approach their School Superzones differently, with some focusing on one or two areas only, while others try to cover all five of the themes. The main drive for all Local Authorities involved is to create long-lasting and meaningful impact on the health of the children, their families and local residents.

An example of work undertaken as part of the School Superzone project in Ealing shows how the project will try to tackle some of the areas together. The school consultation showed that the children and parents felt that green spaces were important for air quality and recreation, but as the nearest parks are slightly outside of the 400m zone and offer little opportunity for meaningful improvements, the focus was put onto growing around the school itself. 

Pupils learning how to grow at an allotment

Linking with local allotment groups and using some of the funding, the plan for this one Superzone in Ealing is to support the school in creating planted areas where children can grow fruit and vegetables throughout the year. The benefits to the children will be an increase in green space around them as they learn, production of healthy food and learning skills that will
benefit them throughout their lives.


What can we learn from Superzones?

The School Superzone methodology is an excellent example of cross-departmental and multi-agency working. By bringing teams together, data and information can be shared and more collaborative solutions can be found. The focus on the priorities of the children, parents and local residents brings together communities and creates additional support networks, such as local businesses wishing to support some of the improvements. As a model, this method appears to be an excellent example of how other local authorities could look to target inequalities and issues in specific locations.

Photo credit: Greater London Authority


School Superzone Example

What is the Future of Superzones?

At the time of writing there are no current plans to continue the funding for these projects in London, although the evaluation results from Round 1 and 2 are still being collated and reviewed. Once the elections in London are completed in May, it will be interesting to see whether this is something that is reinstated for a new round of applications.

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