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Open windows not an answer in winter, Labour warns, as Government’s ventilation failure creates further education disruption

stephen morgan

Labour (@UKLabour) has today [Thursday] warned that the Government’s failure to get ventilation measures in place is pushing schools to open windows despite plummeting temperatures and causing energy bills to rocket.

On a visit to a school in Greenwich, Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s new Shadow Schools Minister said:

“Twelve months on from the Government taking Greenwich to court over keeping kids safe in class, the Government still has no plan on ventilation. This is literally a problem that Ministers should have fixed when the sun was shining.”

Sage first highlighted the importance of ventilation in schools in May 2020, but 19 months on the Government has failed to act on their advice. Pilot trials of air purifiers in classrooms will not deliver a final report until October 2022, nearly three years after the start of the pandemic.

The absence of national leadership has left schools in England trailing behind international counterparts on Covid mitigations, with New York installing 100,000 air purifier systems in classrooms and Germany spending€200m on mobile air filters to help keep schools Covid secure.

Labour analysis of figures from the House of Commons Library has revealed that increases in electricity and gas prices could send school energy costs soaring by up to £80 million, without accounting for open windows.

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, said:

“It is outrageous that because of the Government’s incompetence schools are being left with no option but to open windows as temperatures plummet and heating bills rise just to get adequate ventilation. Schools and local authorities are working incredibly hard to support children, but the government is again treating them as an afterthought.

“The Government should have had a proper plan in place to stop a third year of Covid disruption to education but their chaotic, last-minute approach is leaving children bearing the brunt of the pandemic once again.

“It is already cold. In a month’s time it will be colder. Ministers must get ahead of this virus now and put in place the ventilation systems which Labour, teachers and parents have been calling for many months. Schools are having to spend money on energy bills which they should be spending on our children.”

Commenting on Labour’s warning about the government’s failure to put ventilation measures in place in schools, Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We welcome Labour’s intervention over the government’s lacklustre response to the critical issue of ventilation in classrooms as a key measure in reducing the risk of Covid transmission.

“It took the government until the start of this autumn term even to reach the modest point of rolling out carbon dioxide monitors to schools and colleges. However, these devices merely inform staff when a classroom needs ventilating, which in practice means opening an external window despite the difficulty in maintaining a comfortable learning environment during cold weather.

“The government is now finally providing air cleaning units for special educational needs and alternative provision settings, but expects all other schools and colleges to buy this equipment from an ‘online marketplace’. This penny-pinching and foot-dragging approach is wholly inadequate, and this equipment should be provided to all schools and colleges as required.”

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