Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 4th November 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what further steps he plans to take to increase (a) ventilation and (b) mask wearing in schools in the context of high covid-19 infection rates.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

The day-to-day measures in place in nurseries, schools and colleges are based on the latest scientific advice and strike a balance between managing transmission risk and reducing disruption to children and young people’s education.

Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains virus particles and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Good ventilation has also been associated with a range of benefits, including improved health, better concentration, and lower rates of absence from schools and work. Measuring CO2 levels in indoor spaces is an effective way of identifying poor ventilation in multi-occupant spaces, such as classrooms.

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, the department has emphasised the importance of ventilation and provided guidance to nurseries, schools and colleges on ventilation requirements. The department has now also started to provide CO2 monitors to state-funded nurseries, schools and further education colleges, backed by £25 million in government funding. The roll out to all special schools and alternative provision is now complete. Monitors are now being delivered to mainstream settings and the programme is on track to make all deliveries by the end of the autumn term.

The department expects that, in most cases, the monitors will confirm that existing ventilation is sufficient. Where any issues are identified, in most cases we expect this to be resolved by opening windows and doors, or in some cases minor estate repairs may be needed.

The case for additional support for nurseries, schools and colleges to maintain good ventilation will be kept under review as the programme continues and schools use the monitors to further assess their ventilation needs.

Since Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap, face coverings are no longer recommended as a default in any education or childcare settings. The government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where individuals may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. This includes public transport and dedicated transport to school or college.

The government may offer local authorities an enhanced response package to areas of particular concern to help limit increases in transmission. Directors of Public Health have discretion to re-introduce advice on face-coverings in nurseries, schools and colleges across areas that have been offered an enhanced response package. As part of their outbreak management responsibilities, Directors of Public Health may also recommend face coverings for an individual setting experiencing an outbreak.

Nurseries, schools and colleges should continue to ensure good hygiene for everyone, maintain appropriate cleaning regimes, keep occupied spaces well ventilated and follow public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of COVID-19. The department will continue to keep these measures under review, in partnership with health experts and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.

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