The government has promised 1,000 air cleaning units for alternative provision and specialist or mainstream SEND settings, telling other schools to buy them.
A new online “marketplace” will be set up from early December for schools not eligible for Department for Education-funded units to buy suitable monitors at “reasonable” prices.
The DfE said it would provide funding for 1,000 units for eligible settings “where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible”.
These schools are being prioritised given their higher-than-average vulnerable pupil numbers, with further information on eligibility and applications promised next week.
“Air cleaning units, when used properly, can help reduce airborne contaminants in a poorly ventilated space, including viruses like COVID-19,” the DfE told heads in an email today.
“It should be noted that they are not a substitute for ventilation and should never be used as a reason to reduce ventilation,” the DfE notice added, highlighting the need to open windows and doors.
They may be appropriate in the “very few cases” where such measures or minor repair works are not sufficient.
Officials declared the £25 million CO2 monitor scheme is also “on track”, with 278,000 monitors now delivered to schools.
DfE had pledged to hand schools 300,000 monitors to help schools manage ventilation to reduce Covid’s spread. The announcement means 7.3 per cent or 22,000 of the total promised are yet to be delivered.
But officials said in an emailed update to schools that the remainder would be delivered this term.
James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said it had been calling for more ventilation measures for months.
“We are pleased to see that some action is finally being taken, but it really is hard to fathom why it took so long, especially when other countries seem to have been doing this much earlier.
“If there is a limited supply of the devices, then it clearly makes sense to prioritise the most vulnerable, but this needs to be the start of a national programme where all schools that need them are provided with such devices.
“We simply cannot work on the basis that only those schools that can afford them are able to access them.”