CARS have been banned from the front of a school during peak times, in a bid to improve air quality and cut traffic.

In the first of its kind in the city, parents – as well as commuters, can no longer travel down a section of French Street in front of St John’s Primary and Nursery School during drop-off and pick-up times.

Partnering with Southampton City Council, the school says it wants to address the risk of traffic at peak times, improve the air quality around its site, and give pupils and parents the “confidence” to use active travel, such as cycling, on the school run.

Enforced by retractable “coffin” bollards, the closure will operate from 8.15am to 9am and 2.45pm to 3.30pm every weekday during term time.

The closure will be carried out on a trial basis, the city council has confirmed, and could be rolled out to other schools if successful.

Interim headteacher Chris Toner said: “The installation of the coffin bollards has ensured a safe start and end to the day for our pupils.

“We now benefit from a clear road outside making it safer for pupils to walk, scoot or ride to school, thus encouraging increased health and fitness and reducing air pollution.”

Jane Harris, the school’s travel champion, added: “It’s about a safer environment for our children; it’s been quite a long time coming.

“The majority of our families live in walking distance and so we encourage our families to travel actively to school and we want it to be as safe as possible for them.”

The scheme, which has been funded by developer contributions, is based on a road closure in Camden, London.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, deputy leader and transport chief, said: “The part-time closure of French Street is a really positive move in creating a more pleasant local environment for residents, pupils, parents and school staff alike.

“We hope the closure will give more families the confidence to discover the benefits of walking, scooting or cycling to school. This in turn will help to reduce congestion and air pollution around the school, contributing to a safer, cleaner, healthier place to live and learn.”

This is the school’s latest initiative to tackle air pollution and encourage active travel on the school run, following pupils’ appearance earlier this year at Clean Air Day where they entertained crowds with their ‘Clean Air Dance.’