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Pre-school Education: Ventilation

Question for Department for Education

UIN 99356, tabled on 7 January 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 5 January 2022 to Question 92990, on Pre-school Education: Coronavirus, what support his Department is providing to nurseries and early years providers facing increased heating costs as a result of a requirement to keep windows open to improve ventilation.

Answered on

17 January 2022

During the autumn term, the government provided CO2 monitors to all state-funded education providers, including nurseries, schools, and further education providers, backed by £25 million in government funding. The department has now delivered on our public commitment with over 353,000 monitors delivered. The programme supplied schools and other education providers with sufficient monitors to take representative readings from across their estate. Feedback suggests that education providers are finding the monitors helpful to manage ventilation and, for the majority of providers, existing ventilation measures are sufficient.

CO2 monitors are an additional measure which the department has rolled out to education providers to be used as a guide for where ventilation can be improved. This is not intended to create an additional burden on staff but is an extra tool to support education providers to improve ventilation. It is up to leaders to decide how to best use them in their specific setting. Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains virus particles and is important in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The new 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. When CO2 monitors indicate good ventilation, there is no need to keep windows fully open at all times. Opening windows regularly for 10 minutes, or a small amount continuously, can still reduce the airborne risk from COVID-19 substantially compared to spaces with no fresh air. Where this isn’t an option, opening higher up windows or vents causes fewer draughts, as does opening other windows by a small amount.

On 2 January 2022 we announced that 7000 air cleaning units are now being made available for mainstream state-funded education providers, including early years providers, in addition to the 1000 units made available for special and alternative provision providers that we announced in November 2021. Education providers were able to apply for funded units via an online form. Applications closed at 9am on 17 January 2022. Applications will be assessed against strict criteria. The department will prioritise spaces with the poorest ventilation to receive units based on criteria such as CO2 readings and occupation density. Deliveries of the initial units for special and alternative provision providers announced in November are now taking place, with the first deliveries made last week. Deliveries of the remaining units to mainstream settings will begin in February.

The department has also launched an online marketplace which gives education providers a route to purchasing air cleaning units at a suitable specification and competitive price, details of which can be found here: https://s107t01-webapp-v2-01.azurewebsites.net/list/air-cleaning. In future, we may review this list and as more products which meet our specification become available, these will be added. All purchases through the marketplace are managed by the supplier, rather than by the department.

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