DfE invest £25 million in carbon dioxide monitors

Kathy Oxtoby
Monday, August 23, 2021

From September all state-funded education settings will have CO2 monitors to help staff identify where ventilation needs to be improved.

The Department for Education (DfE) will invest £25 million into carbon dioxide monitors for the autumn term in a drive to combat the spread of Covid-19 in education settings.

Around 300,000 CO2 monitors will be made available from September to all state-funded education settings, to help staff identify where ventilation needs to be improved, the DfE has announced (21 August 2021). This will also include private, voluntary and independent early years settings.

Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains virus particles and is important in preventing the spread of Covid-19 infections.

 

 

Enabling staff to act quickly

The new monitors will enable staff to ‘act quickly where ventilation is poor and provide reassurance that existing ventilation measures are working’, the DfE said.

The majority of monitors will become available over the autumn term, with special schools and alternative provision prioritised to receive their full allocation from September given their higher-than-average numbers of vulnerable pupils.

The government has also launched a trial of air purifiers in 30 schools in Bradford, which is designed to assess the technology in education settings and whether they could reduce the risk of transmission.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Providing all schools with CO2 monitors will help them make sure they have the right balance of measures in place, minimising any potential disruption to education and allowing them to focus on world class lessons and catch up for the children who need it.'

 

‘Good ventilation is crucial’

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We are all enjoying the return to a more normal way of life and getting our children back into school is a really important part of that process. We want to ensure schools are both safe and comfortable for students and staff – and have been clear that good ventilation is crucial.

‘As well as offering vaccines to 16 and 17 year olds and regular testing, we continue to work with the Department for Education to manage COVID-19 in schools and colleges. This includes the pilot we are running to test different air cleaning methods in school settings.’

CO2 monitors are portable so schools and other settings will be able to move them around to test their full estate, starting with areas they suspect may be poorly ventilated.

The programme will provide schools and other settings with sufficient monitors to take representative readings from across the indoor spaces in their estate, assessing all spaces in a relatively short space of time.

More details will be available following the completion of procurement, however ‘all schools and colleges are expected to receive at least partial allocations during the autumn term, enabling all settings to monitor areas where they believe airflow may be weakest’, the DfE said.

The department added that as the monitors are rolled out it will provide guidance on their use.

 

‘Welcome recognition’

Jonathan Broadbery, National Day Nurseries Association’s (NDNA) director of policy and communications, said the NDNA had been told by the DfE that private, voluntary and independent early years settings will be included in the scheme for Carbon Dioxide monitors. ‘This is a welcome recognition that early years providers are a part of the national education infrastructure,’ he said.

 

‘Nurseries and childcare settings have operated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and have gone, and continue, to go to great lengths to keep children and staff safe. Access to the right tools will help providers understand some of their areas of risk and help to ensure everyone remains safe. We want to see detailed guidance of how this scheme will operate and what support will be available to settings if ventilation issues are identified.

 

‘Many settings are already running at a loss and have seen their running costs rise even further due to the pandemic. Throughout the past 18 months we have called for additional financial and practical support for early years settings. While this practical support is welcome, it must also be backed up with extra resources to support nurseries.’

 

‘Valuable additional step’

Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said: ‘Clearly, ventilating indoor spaces is a crucial component of ensuring early years settings remain as safe as possible. We therefore welcome the move to make carbon dioxide monitors available to all settings that offer early entitlements, as a valuable additional step to keep them both well-ventilated and hospitable during the more challenging autumn and winter months. 

‘Ensuring our early years spaces remain Covid-safe is a mission the sector is fully invested in. Any additional support for that mission will not only help protect children and the early years workforce, but also allow the sector to remain open as much as possible, benefitting the many families which rely on it.’

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