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More than 400 pupils from two Portsmouth schools have been stomping to school as part of Portsmouth City Council's 'Pompey Monster Stomp to School Challenge', which aims to develop healthy lifestyles, encourages road safety awareness and helps to improve air quality.

Children from St Judes C of E School and Portsdown Primary School have signed up to take part in the seven week challenge, which encourages them to stomp (walk, scoot or cycle) to school at least three times a week.

Pupils who sign up for the council's scheme receive a free pack with everything they need to take part, including a map and stomp charts. Children swap their completed charts each week for a collectable Pompey Monster character keyring. Each keyring features a Pompey Monster with a road safety message. There are seven to collect, including Stomper, Eagle Eyes, Stripes, Chatter Natter, Scoot, Wheels and Breezy.

The Pompey Monsters help children to learn about the importance of road safety, active travel and air quality. Each monster has an important safety message, like Wheels who explains the benefits of cycling, or Stripes who helps children to cross the road safely.

Air quality monster, Breezy, is the newest Pompey Monster and teaches children about the importance of making our air cleaner and how we can reduce pollution caused by cars and other vehicles. Although pollution affects everyone, it's especially damaging to young lungs which are still developing. The combination of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter can cause health conditions like asthma and can restrict lung development in children.

Breezy leads the way in encouraging children to travel actively and choose quieter routes away from heavy traffic, as well as encouraging parents not to idle their engines, especially when close to schools whilst picking up and dropping off children.

Cllr Lynne Stagg, Cabinet Member for Traffic and Transport, said: "I'm delighted that we have been able to bring the Pompey Monsters Stomp to School Challenge to schools again this year.

"Pompey Monsters teach children about the benefits of walking, cycling or scooting to school in a fun and engaging way. The schools have been very supportive of the scheme and it's great to see that the children are embracing the challenge, despite the winter weather.

"Parents who choose to leave their cars at home or switch off their engines around schools are making an important contribution towards improving the city's air quality and will help to build a cleaner future for our children's health."

Rachael Osborne, head teacher at St Jude's School, said "The Pompey Monsters Stomp to School Challenge benefits us in so many ways.  It not only increases children's daily activity, but it highlights for our pupils the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and decreases the amount of traffic on the roads around our school, morning and afternoon.  We are tireless in our commitment to making our children's journey to school safer and the challenge is another way of helping to improve this situation."

Pupils at the two schools have been getting to know Stomper, leader of the seven Pompey Monsters, who has recently made a guest appearance at the schools' assemblies to show the children just how simple and enjoyable it is to stomp to school. Eleven Portsmouth schools have been involved with the scheme so far.

Pompey Monsters represent just one of the council's initiatives towards improving air quality in the city. The council is currently consulting residents for their views on a Clean Air Zone which will be implemented in 2021. Find out more about what the council is doing to make our air cleaner, visit portsmouth.gov.uk/airquality.

To find out more about Pompey Monsters visit portsmouth.gov.uk/pompeymonsters.