DfE rejects 1 in 5 requests for school air-cleaning units

285 schools had bids for government-funded units refused because they 'did not meet the eligibility criteria'

285 schools had bids for government-funded units refused because they 'did not meet the eligibility criteria'

24 Jan 2022, 11:00

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Around one in five schools that requested free air-cleaning units for their classrooms had their bids rejected by the Department for Education, new figures show.

As of Friday last week, the DfE had received requests from 1,550 education settings for government-funded air cleaning units. Of those, 1,265, or 82 per cent, had their bids approved, while 285, around 18 per cent, were rejected.

To be eligible for the devices, schools needed to have classrooms with sustained CO2 readings of over 1,500 parts per million (ppm), and be unable to complete remedial works before the end of February.

An ad-hoc data release, published today, explains that “those settings who applied but will not receive units did not meet the eligibility criteria set out”.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced today that the government would deliver up to 9,000 air cleaning units to schools and colleges across the country to improve ventilation. This is 1,000 more devices than initially promised.

The government revealed earlier this month that the number of units on offer was determined by feedback from schools about readings taken using around 350,000 CO2 monitors sent out to schools last year.

The DfE has now released the findings of its survey of 4,367 state-funded education settings. The survey was sent to 36,493 settings, meaning it had a response rate of around 12 per cent.

The survey found that 3 per cent of settings using the monitors reported sustained readings of 1,500 ppm and above, which “could not be remedied through quick fixes or remedial building works”.

This is similar to a finding by Teacher Tapp in December, which found around 4 per cent of respondents taught in a classroom with a CO2 reading of more than 1,500ppm.

‘Very small minority’ need air cleaners

There are around 300,000 classrooms in England, and education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told LBC this morning a “very small minority” would actually need air cleaning devices.

While the DfE had initially believed 8,000 devices would suffice, its estimate had increased to “just under” 9,000, “so we’ve bought another 1,000 to take it up to 9,000 and we’re sending those out to about 1,200 settings”.

The DfE survey, from December, also found that around 4 per cent of schools had not yet begun using CO2 monitors, while 95 per cent of those that had started using them were “able to use them to identify when ventilation in a room needed to increase”.

While 12 per cent reported sustained CO2 readings of 1,500ppm and above “the majority of these were able to remedy this through quick fixes”, such as opening a window.

Of the 8,000 air-cleaning units previously promised by the government, 7,000 were for mainstream schools and 1,000 were for special and alternative provision settings.

Zahawi had previously claimed that providing more devices could “waste taxpayers’ money”.

But Schools Week revealed earlier this month that schools were raiding their own budgets to purchase air-cleaning units for their classrooms.

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