England could fit Covid air filters in all school classrooms for half the price of the new royal yacht, in a move that scientists have said would greatly help in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
According to calculations submitted by the Liberal Democrats, the move would cost taxpayers about £140m – far less than the planned yacht upgrade, which is expected to be kept in service for around 30 years according to the BBC.
The news comes amid recent calls from education secretary Nadim Zahawi for retired teachers to return to the profession to help fill absences created by staff illness.
One such unit recommended by the government, made by Camfil City M, costs £1,170 whilst the other recommended product, a Dyson model, costs £424.82.
A multi-academy trust leader told TES: “We were really shocked to see the cost of the two products on the DfE approved framework.
“We have purchased several HEPA filtration units for less than half the cost of the Dyson units on this framework. It is difficult to understand why the DfE would signpost schools to such expensive branded products at a time when school budgets are so tight.”
Meanwhile, many school heads are warning that whole year groups could be sent home due to Covid-19 – and are already warning of high numbers of staff absences caused by illness and self-isolation.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned The Telegraph that classroom closures could occur if teachers were left with no alternatives.
He told the paper: “If you have a fixed pool available of those who can teach young people, then the only final resort schools and colleges have is to start thinking about the certain year groups that should be prioritised in the short term,”
Current government advice to protect teachers and children from the spread of the virus suggests that windows should be opened, as should external doors, in order to help create airflow throughout classrooms.
Official advice also states that schools “should balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature”, although this may be difficult to achieve during the cold winter months as classes of children return to in-person lessons in January 2022.
The government has also suggested the use of CO2 monitors in schools as a way to better promote airflow. However, the Lib Dem education spokesperson Munira Wilson has pointed out that these would be much less effective than Covid air filters, as they only give information on where airflow is needed – as opposed to increasing airflow within classrooms.
Wilson told the Guardian: “Failure to act right now will fail our children in the future. The government has a week to solve this, otherwise, pupils will be left out in the cold and missing out on vital learning once again,”
“Nadhim Zahawi gave a cast-iron guarantee that schools would stay open. Unless he gets a grip on this quickly, he will be adding to the countless broken promises from this Government. Worse still, he will be breaking a promise to all our children.”
The government has assured parents that schools will open as usual for the new term following the Christmas break, despite a huge surge in Omicron cases over Christmas.
Feature image – Coast Community