Coronavirus: Teacher assistants worried about inadequate ventilation in schools
A teachers’ union calls on the government to fund CO2 monitors in schools over concerns from members about the level of ventilation in classrooms to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
A survey by the GMB union of 800 school support workers in London and the south-east found that 81% would feel safer if CO2 monitors were used in schools.
Evidence suggests that there is a strong link between carbon dioxide levels in buildings and the airborne spread of the coronavirus. Carbon dioxide is generated by the exhaled air of people inside. The exhale also contains tiny droplets of fluid, which could contain coronavirus if it’s present in someone’s lungs.
The survey also found that only 12% of respondents feel confident about the next school year and going back to school in September.
A teaching assistant said: “We, the teaching assistants [teaching assistants] have been left to die or survive and no one seems to care! I worked petrified, angry and freezing cold during the winter months in a classroom where the temperature was around 10 ° C. I am extremely exhausted and have health issues from this nightmare. I dread September.
Another GMB member commented: “I have sent my principal the evidence of finding good ventilation in schools, but we still have many windows that do not open because they are broken.”
The Department of Education (DfE) is currently working with Public Health England (PHE), NHS Test & Trace and SAGE on a pilot project to measure CO2 levels in classrooms, but GMB says it is clear from the survey results, this is not enough.
Nursery world contacted DfE for a response.
According to the union, schools in Germany and Ireland have already been fitted with CO2 monitors.
Action is “needed now”
GMB regional organizer Lisa Bangs said action on CO2 monitors “must be taken now”.
“Good ventilation is difficult in schools and the use of CO2 monitors would allow school staff to understand the impact of activities, outdoor weather conditions and window openings on ventilation in their classrooms. “, she explained.
“Our members often work in small areas with up to 30 children and good ventilation is essential to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19. Many schools have windows that do not or only partially open and have areas such as mess rooms where ventilation is insufficient.
“It is time for the government to step up its efforts and provide schools with the much-needed financial support to fund CO2 monitors and safe ventilation systems.”
The National Education Union (NEU) has joined the call for government funding to improve ventilation in schools.
Secretary-General Dr Mary Bousted said: “Measures such as CO2 monitors are needed to verify if ventilation is adequate. If this is not the case and the only way to ensure adequate ventilation is to use air filtration devices, then funds must be made available to purchase them. Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed this will be the case in schools and colleges in Scotland.
“The government cannot continue to repeat the same mistakes and ignore the importance of ensuring that schools and colleges remain as safe as possible against COVID. Failure to do so will result in the same pattern of needlessly interrupted education that we have seen throughout the pandemic ”.