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Half of Brussels schools lack green space

15:46 15/06/2024

Half of Brussels primary schools struggle with a lack of vegetation in the schoolyard and a third also lack access to nearby public green space, according to a study from Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).

The study also found that the schools of children from richer families in Brussels tend to be the most green and are also closest to surrounding nature in the area.

“Brussels is often portrayed as one of the greenest cities in Europe,” researcher Elsa Gallez said, adding that despite this reputation, the proximity to green spaces reveals “the greatest inequalities” when compared to Rotterdam, Paris, Barcelona and other European cities.

“A green environment helps against stress and hyperactivity, improves cognitive development and emotional wellbeing and results in a lower risk of obesity and asthma. But those living in economically deprived urban areas don’t get enough time in nature.”

Since children spend much of their time at school, playgrounds and school environments can play an important role in offsetting that issue.

But 47% of schoolyards in the Brussels region remain largely covered in concrete, and 51% of schools have no public green space within a 300-metre radius

Especially in the northern and central neighbourhoods of the capital, “school environments are exposed to high levels of air pollution and risk of heat”, the research found.

To better identify the problem, Gallez, in collaboration with Brussels Environnement, has launched a survey on the use of green spaces by primary school children.

Written by Helen Lyons