Categories: Safety

Education unions make joint call for urgent action on ventilation in schools


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Education unions, together with Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP, have written to Gavin Williamson urging the government to take firm action to improve ventilation in schools to reduce further Covid disruption.

According to the unions (NEU, Unison, NASUWT, ASCL, NAHT, GMB and Unite) proper measures to increase airflow in time for the start of the next academic year will make a difference to health and limit the damage to learning for pupils.

In their letter they say “the benefits of ventilation in the control of airborne diseases are already well understood and accepted”. They point to carbon dioxide monitors – to ensure air is flowing adequately – and micro filters for removing harmful particles as measures that will make a significant difference and should be properly funded.

Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer for education said: “Public health experts have identified that proper ventilation is a key prerequisite as we enter the next stage in containing coronavirus. Free-flowing air circulation in schools, as well as workplaces and other places where people gather, should be a government priority.

“During the pandemic, education secretary Gavin Williamson has been shown to be slow-footed in his responses; now he has an opportunity to get on the front foot with increased ventilation for schools underpinned by the necessary funding.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Government action on ventilation in schools and colleges amounts to little more than recommending that windows are kept open, which is not sustainable in providing a comfortable learning environment in the depths of a British winter. If the government is serious about bringing to an end the educational disruption of the past 18 months then it must provide funding for high-quality ventilation systems as a matter of urgency.”

Daisy Cooper MP, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, said: “The evidence clearly shows that good ventilation is critical for reducing the spread of Covid-19 and keeping people safe whilst indoors. If the Government is serious about ending the disruption pupils, parents and teachers have faced over the last 18 months then it must provide schools with all the required resources – both funding and support – to install high-quality ventilation systems without further delay.”

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT, said: “The NASUWT believes that CO2 monitors should be in place in every school as part of an effective Covid safety response. Many teachers are still working in rooms which have the windows sealed shut, yet we now know that good ventilation is a key mitigation in helping to reduce the spread of Covid and other viruses in indoor environments.

“Given the recent warnings we have heard from the Chief Medical Officer that the autumn and winter could be a very difficult period again for the country, it’s important that pre-emptive action is taken in schools. A commitment from ministers to a fund to provide enhanced ventilation, monitoring and support with air filtration would be an extremely positive move. It would be reassuring to those working within our schools and be reassuring for many parents.”

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is shocking that, rather than taking concrete steps now to improve the situation, the Department for Education has only just announced a pilot scheme involving 30 schools in Bradford to trial the use of air purifiers, with results not due until the end of the year. Eighteen months into the pandemic, and given the accumulated knowledge about ventilation, kicking the issue into the long grass in this way is simply not good enough.”

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