Closed petition Funding for ventilation in all school/college/uni classrooms

As a parent, it has become of increasing concern that the Government has not yet committed to funding increased ventilation in classrooms, in the form of approved HEPA air filter systems/air purifiers.This petition is to ask the Government to immediately fund these in schools/colleges/unis.

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It is now a widely accepted fact that Covid-19 is airborne, which means the risk to children in indoor, poorly ventilated classrooms is immense.
If children are infected they have a lower risk of Covid BUT still a risk nonetheless. Teachers also face risk to health and indeed life through teaching face to face and it should be noted that some who have been double vaccinated are still catching Covid and becoming ill.

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Government responded

This response was given on 27 January 2022

All state-funded education settings received CO2 monitors. Up to 9000 air cleaning units will cover poorly ventilated teaching spaces. Universities are responsible for their own ventilation.

One of the key ways to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 spreading in schools, colleges and early years settings is to make sure they are well ventilated. During the autumn term, we provided CO2 monitors to all state-funded education settings, including early years, schools and further education providers, backed by £25 million in government funding. We have now delivered on our public commitment with over 353,000 monitors delivered in the Autumn term. The programme provided schools and other settings with sufficient monitors to take representative readings from across their estate. Feedback suggests that schools are finding the monitors helpful to manage ventilation and, in the majority of settings, existing ventilation measures are sufficient.

Where an area of poor ventilation has been identified, settings should first look to implement simple measures like opening windows and doors. When CO2 monitors indicate good ventilation, there is no need to keep windows fully open at all times. Opening windows regularly for 10 minutes, or a small amount continuously, can still reduce the airborne risk from COVID-19 substantially compared to spaces with no fresh air.

If the ventilation issue cannot be easily resolved, schools are advised to explore what remedial works are needed. It may be appropriate to consider the use of an air cleaning unit while the underlying issue is addressed. When used properly, air cleaning units can help reduce airborne contaminants in a poorly ventilated space, including viruses like COVID-19. Air cleaning units are not a substitute for ventilation and are not necessary in spaces that are adequately ventilated. They do not reduce CO2 levels.

To fulfil all eligible applications for air cleaning units, up to 9000 air cleaning units will be provided to state-funded education settings, including schools (primary and secondary), FE colleges and early years settings, for poorly ventilated teaching spaces where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible. In total, as of 24 January, the government has committed to fulfil all eligible applications from 1265 state-funded education settings that met the eligibility criteria set out in our guidance. Deliveries of the initial units for special and AP settings announced in November are now complete. Deliveries of the remaining units to mainstream settings will begin in February.

Natural ventilation is best where that is achievable, and we have robust evidence that in the vast majority of cases, teaching spaces and classrooms benefit from sufficient natural ventilation: the number of eligible settings mirrors the findings of the Department for Education’s survey of education settings, which found that only three per cent of settings using carbon dioxide monitors reported sustained high carbon dioxide readings that couldn’t otherwise be addressed. Furthermore, we only received applications for just over 8000 units from education settings. At the Education Select Committee (ESC) hearing on 12 January 2022, Minister Walker covered in detail why air cleaning units are not required in every classroom.

We have also launched an online marketplace which provides all state funded education settings a route to purchasing air cleaning units directly from suppliers at a suitable specification and competitive price.

Poorly ventilated spaces should be identified as part of each setting’s risk assessment. The law says employers, including education and childcare settings, must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. It is a matter for individual settings to ensure that they comply with their health and safety obligations: this has not changed during the pandemic, and HSE provides more information on this here. Day to day maintenance and minor repairs, including those to improve ventilation, should typically be funded from general maintenance budgets from revenue allocations.

We have not provided universities with CO2 monitors. This is because universities are autonomous and able to determine their own arrangements to ensure there is sufficient ventilation in teaching spaces. We expect universities to follow guidance on ventilation published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and to conduct risk assessments when considering the use of facilities.

Department for Education