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Update 6 June 2023: Our Pesticide-Free Schools communication campaign is being launched next week. This will include a letter co-signed by City Council and the combined authority Mayor, and our Pesticide-Free Guide to go out to all Cambridge schools. Alongside this we are working with Cambridge City Council and On the Verge Cambridge to deliver the Eco Schools Environmental Education Programme as part of their Green Flag Award (to download leaflet that went out to schools in May 2023, click here as part of their Green Flag Award.



For further news and updates on our pesticide-free schools campaign, see our blog posts below.



Most schools in Cambridge regularly use glyphosate-based herbicides to control weeds in their playgrounds. Even more worryingly, most schools use highly toxic insecticides to treat ants, wasps, beetles, flies etc both in the outside grounds as well as inside areas such as classrooms. Young, developing brains are much more susceptible to the toxic effects of insecticides than adults are. Research has demonstrated a close link between pesticide exposure and neuro-developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism.  Many insecticides remain active in indoor environments for many many years, meaning that children sitting in classrooms indoors are potentially being exposed to fumes for the duration of their school years.  

Cockroaches die with insecticides,pest c


Given that children spend upwards of six hours a day in classroom settings, it is vital that the air they breathe is clean and free of toxins. Recent campaigns have sought to control the use of agricultural herbicides in the vicinity of residences and schools to reduce the health impact of pesticide ‘drift’. But there is little point in regulating pesticide spraying near schools when schools themselves are directly dousing their premises with equally toxic pesticides! 



In the last year, increasing numbers of school children have become interested in tackling the global climate-change and biodiversity crisis. Many young people and their families have participated in climate change strikes demanding the government to take action or protesting against investment in fossil fuels.  However, just as important as demanding change from the government is ensuring that one’s immediate environment or indeed one’s own actions, are not part of the problem.  Pesticides are major contributors to climate change and biodiversity breakdown; they are also central to a closely related public health crisis that ranges from M.E, chronic fatigue syndrome, to autism, chronic migraines, and cancers. If you care about the environment and the health of the next generation, it is critically important to pay attention to the health of the buildings and places in which your family live, study and work.



  1. Ask your school what methods they use to control weeds in their grounds. Ask them to consider using chemical free forms of weed control. Involving children in the manual removal of weeds is a great way to raise awareness in this respect.  Or alternatively, to re-examine the notion of what is a ‘weed’, and what is a ‘plant in the wrong place’ and how such plants might be incorporated into childrens’ education about biodiversity and the natural world.

  2. Ask your school what insecticides they have used in the last year both outside and indoors, and what their pest-control policy is should an insect infestation arise.  Ask which products have been used, with dates, and details of where such chemicals were used. Ask them to consider the use of non toxic forms of insect control. For example, a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and sugar is often much more effective than carbamate or pyrethroid-based insecticide powder for treating ants, without any of the long-lasting impacts on childrens’ brains.  Other ideas for non-toxic or integrated forms of pest control can be found here.

  3. Sign up for PAN-UK’s Pesticide-Free Schools Campaign here.  On their site you’ll find posters and leaflets explaining how your children can get involved with the campaign to make their schools pesticide free***. 

  4. Download and share our "Alternatives to Synthetic Pesticides: A Guide for Schools, Businesses & Residents".

***Note that the advice on PAN-UK's site above is mainly focused on glyphosate-based herbicide use, with less consideration of the use of considerably more toxic insecticides INSIDE school buildings where the absence of rain and sunlight prolongs chemical ‘half life’ considerably.  So make sure that you stress to your school that it’s not ONLY herbicides that you are concerned about. 



Over the last eight years we have been building up a profile of the use of pesticides across a range of Cambridge’s schools based on our members’ experience as parents. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to share your own experiences with your child’s school in relation to the use of pesticides in the playground or within estates/facilities contexts. We’re keen to learn about victories in getting your school to ditch toxic pesticides as much as obstacles that you’ve encountered, as both are equally important as we build a case for presenting our petition to the County Council that oversees schools in Cambridge.


"Such plants are 'weeds' only to those who make a business of selling and applying chemicals."

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)

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