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Education unions, together with Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP, have today written to Gavin Williamson urging the government to take firm action to improve ventilation in schools to reduce further Covid disruption.

The unions - NEU, Unison, NASUWT, ASCL, NAHT, GMB and Unite – say proper measures to increase airflow in time for the start of the next academic year will make a difference to health and limit the damage to learning for pupils.

In their letter they say “the benefits of ventilation in the control of airborne diseases are already well understood and accepted”. They point to carbon dioxide monitors – to ensure air is flowing adequately – and micro filters for removing harmful particles as measures that will make a significant difference and should be properly funded.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT, said:

“The NASUWT believes that CO2 monitors should be in place in every school as part of an effective Covid safety response. Many teachers are still working in rooms which have the windows sealed shut, yet we now know that good ventilation is a key mitigation in helping to reduce the spread of Covid and other viruses in indoor environments.

"Given the recent warnings we have heard from the Chief Medical Officer that the autumn and winter could be a very difficult period again for the country, it’s important that pre-emptive action is taken in schools. A commitment from ministers to a fund to provide enhanced ventilation, monitoring and support with air filtration would be an extremely positive move. It would be reassuring to those working within our schools and be reassuring for many parents.”

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Secretary of State

TAKE URGENT ACTION ON VENTILATION IN OUR SCHOOLS  
We are concerned that when children return to school in September very few mitigations to slow the spread of Covid 19 will be present.  
For example, according to DfE guidance, it won't be necessary to keep children in consistent groups, only very limited numbers of children will be contact traced by NHS Test and Trace and in general face coverings are 'not advised' for pupils, staff, or even visitors, anywhere on school premises.   
In these circumstances there is a strong possibility of steeply increasing Covid cases in the Autumn, with some children suffering from Long Covid as a result. There are also concerns about a new wave of other respiratory diseases such as flu and RSV which are worse for children than Covid. 
School staff, some of whom will not be double vaccinated, or are in a vulnerable group, are also in some cases still at risk of serious illness.  Staff who are fully vaccinated are also still at risk of catching the virus and potentially developing Long Covid, which is already afflicting tens of thousands of school staff.
We are, therefore, very concerned that in an answer to a parliamentary question the DfE has confirmed that they have 'not provided specific additional funding for schools to improve classroom ventilation since January 2021'. 
It was only on August 11th that it was announced that thirty schools in Bradford would be taking part in a research project to trial the use of air purifiers.  The benefits of ventilation in the control of airborne diseases are already well understood and accepted, and we already know that air purifiers work.  This project should have been undertaken more than a year ago and is just delaying protections which could be put in place now.
Therefore we, the undersigned, call for urgent action by the DfE to invest in ventilation measures in our schools, including but not limited to the provision of CO2 monitors to monitor air quality and other measures, including where appropriate HEPA filters, which can help slow the spread of such diseases. 
 

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