Schools: Coronavirus and Ventilation

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th June 2022.

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Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he plans to issue guidance to schools on undertaking work during the 2022 summer school holidays to (a) improve ventilation and (b) reduce the risk of covid-19 transmission.

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

Schools should always create a healthy indoor environment for occupants. This includes keeping spaces ventilated to reduce the concentration of pathogens in the air, such as COVID-19, and to manage indoor temperatures.

In 2017, the department published ‘Building Bulletin 101’, guidance for school design on ventilation, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality. This includes the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines and Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 for indoor air quality. The full publication can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ventilation-thermal-comfort-and-indoor-air-quality-in-schools.

When carrying out works to make building improvements, schools should use the environmental standards set out in the department's ‘Employer’s requirements Part A: General conditions’ guidance. The current version was updated recently and published in November 2021. This can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/output-specification-generic-design-brief-and-technical-annexes.

The department has produced the ‘Good estate management for schools’ guidance, located on GOV.UK. The guidance provides education providers with resources and guidance on managing the estate, including reducing water and energy usage. More information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/good-estate-management-for-schools/health-and-safety

In the 2021/22 academic year, the department provided over 386,000 CO2 monitors to state-funded education providers, including early years, schools, and further education providers, backed by £25 million in government funding. The monitors enable staff to identify areas where ventilation needs to be improved and provide reassurance that existing ventilation measures are working, helping balance the need for good ventilation with keeping classrooms warm.

In January 2022, the government committed to fulfil all eligible applications for air cleaning units to state-funded education providers for poorly ventilated teaching spaces where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible. The latest delivery figures can be found at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/delivery-of-air-cleaning-units.

Maintaining adequate ventilation remains the responsibility of individual schools. The law says employers, including education and childcare providers, must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh air in enclosed areas of the workplace. This has not changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Health and Safety Executive provides more information on this here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/ventilation/index.htm.

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