Commenting on the Department for Education’s confirmation of funding for CO2 monitors in state-funded education settings, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"This is a really welcome first step in accepting our argument that funding is needed for good ventilation. It follows examples set by administrations in New York City, Scotland and Ireland. Sadly, Gavin Williamson failed to get on the front-foot over the summer but the initial investment of £25m in CO2 monitors is welcome now and will start to make a difference. It is vital, though, that Government must also commit to supporting schools to address any ventilation problems identified by these monitors.
"From September, school and college staff will be working alongside pupils who very largely will not be partly nor fully vaccinated. The Government took away mitigations such as masks and bubbles, leaving very little in terms of requirements. The absence of any real direction from Government has worried education staff greatly despite high adult vaccination rates.
“However, today's decision is we hope a signal that Government is serious about the importance of ventilation in relation to Covid-19 and the funding is a clear indication to schools and colleges that they should prioritise fresh air. It is a welcome admission from Government that some mitigations need to be in place.
"The educational benefits of good ventilation are very clear. Not only will this make it more likely that young people can continue with on-site learning, but good ventilation will also aid their concentration.
"The new school and college terms will almost certainly prompt an uptick in case counts nationally. Current levels already match where we were in December 2020. To counter a significant rise and the R heading back over 1, school and college leaders will be looking to see what they can do to ensure on-site learning is safe and sustainable throughout autumn term.
“Ventilation is essential, but it cannot be the only measure in place, especially if children are not vaccinated. Government should support leaders in secondary schools and colleges in weighing up the case for continuing to require staff and students to wear face coverings around the premises - including potentially in classrooms - and on dedicated school transport, particularly in areas with high case rates.
"We will keep a close watch on Government's delivery of their promise. Too often we have seen pledges and announcements which fail to fully deliver. This cannot be a repeat of the failures of the laptop roll-out."