• Saturday, June 25, 2022

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Unions urge Williamson to provide air filters, monitoring devices in schools

Hand sanitizer is seen at the entrance to a classroom at Copley Academy on March 09, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

SCHOOL UNIONS in England have urged the education secretary to provide air filters and monitoring devices in classrooms to prevent further Covid-related disruption, according to a report in The Guardian.

Seven unions have written to Gavin Williamson asking to improve ventilation when schools reopen for the autumn term without any requirement for children to wear masks or be grouped in “bubbles”, the report added.

The letter, backed by the Liberal Democrats, asks for air purification units to be installed to filter out the virus, as well as carbon dioxide monitors to measure airflow.

There is evidence that coronavirus is transmitted primarily through airborne particles in enclosed spaces.

“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,” the letter warned.

“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.”

The letter also reminded that the Department for Education (DfE) had not provided any specific funding for schools to improve ventilation since January.

The signatories include Unite, the National Association of Head Teachers, the Association of School and College Leaders, the NASUWT, the National Education Union, GMB, and Unison, The Guardian report added.

The DfE said that areas with poor ventilation should be proactively identified so that steps can be taken to improve fresh air flow if needed.

According to the report, the DfE and the Department for Health are running a £1.75m pilot scheme in Bradford to assess the most effective use of air purification technologies within schools.

Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said a commitment by the government to fund improved ventilation would be “an extremely positive move. It would be reassuring to those working within our schools and be reassuring for many parents.”

Recently, a coalition of fire safety and education organisations have asked the government to mandate for sprinklers to be included in all new and refurbished school buildings in England.

In the five years to March 2020, firefighters attended fires at 1,467 primary schools and 834 secondary schools in England. Forty-seven primary and secondary school buildings were completely gutted and 230 others were seriously damaged, the coalition pointed out.

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