Nowhere to Play: Available Open and Green Space in Greater London Schools

Niloofar Shoari, Majid Ezzati, Yvonne G. Doyle, Ingrid Wolfe, Michael Brauer, James Bennett, Daniela Fecht*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Experiencing outdoor space, especially natural space, during childhood and adolescence has beneficial physical and mental health effects, including improved cognitive and motor skills and a lower risk of obesity. Since school-age children typically spend 35–40 hours per week at schools, we quantified their access to open (non-built-up) space and green space at schools in Greater London. We linked land use information from the UK Ordnance Survey with school characteristics from the Department for Education (DfE) for schools in Greater London. We estimated open space by isolating land and water features within school boundaries and, as a subset of open space, green space defined as open space covered by vegetation. We examined the relationship of both school open and green space with distance to Central London, whether the school was fee-paying, and the percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals (as a school-level indicator of socioeconomic status). Almost 400,000 pupils (30% of all pupils in London) attended schools with less than ten square metre per pupil of open space—the minimum recommended area by DfE—and 800,000 pupils attended schools with less than ten square metre per pupil of green space. Of the latter, 70% did not have any public parks in the immediate vicinity of their schools. School green space increased with distance from Central London. There was a weak association between the school-level socioeconomic indicator and the amount of open and green space. Fee-paying schools provided less open space compared to non-fee-paying schools in central parts of London, but the provision became comparable in suburban London. Many London schools do not provide enough open and green space. There is a need to ensure regular contact with green space through safeguarding school grounds from sales, financially supporting disadvantaged schools to increase their outdoor space and providing access to off-site facilities such as sharing outdoor space with other schools.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)375-384
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Urban Health
    Issue number3
    Early online date19 Mar 2021
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This work is supported by the Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities grant from the Wellcome Trust [209376/Z/17/Z]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission. This work was further supported by the MRC Centre for Environment and Health, which is currently funded by the Medical Research Council (MR/S019669/1, 2019-2024). ME and DF are also supported by the STOP project. The STOP project ( received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 774548. The STOP Consortium is coordinated by Imperial College London and includes 24 organisations across Europe, the United States and New Zealand. The content of this publication reflects only the views of the authors, and the European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information it contains. Infrastructure support for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics was provided by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021, The Author(s).


    • Green space
    • Inequalities
    • London
    • School grounds
    • Schools


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