Just 41 schools in London are due to receive CO2 monitors this week, with just 517 devices due to be sent out, according to a schedule sent to schools.
The government announced last month that it would provide around 300,000 carbon dioxide monitors to state schools to help them tackle poor ventilation.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said today that the first deliveries of monitors would start from this week, with special schools and alternative provision prioiritised in the first phase.
All eligible settings are “expected” to start to receive their allocations during the autumn term, and the DfE said schools should expect to receive their full allocations in one delivery.
But an official delivery schedule sent out to headteachers today show that at present, 1,008 schools are due to receive around 13,241 monitors over the next three weeks.
That represents less than 5 per cent of the 21,602 state schools in England, and just over 4 per cent of the total devices promised.
It comes after unions questioned the government’s decision to wait until the beginning of this academic year to begin distributing the equipment.
Two firms to distribute CO2 monitors
According to the schedule, 41 schools in London will this week take delivery of 517 monitors. These will be supplied by Rexel, a wholesale electrical distributor. Next week the same company is due to distribute 7,727 devices to 561 schools across England.
Then, in the week commencing September 20, a supplier called CEF (Flamefast) is due to distribute 4,997 devices to 406 schools.
According to government guidance published alongside the schedule, each school will receive “roughly one monitor for every two teaching rooms”. The monitors are portable so schools can “easily move them around”.
‘No need’ to stop using poorly-ventilated classrooms
The guidance gives schools instructions on where to place the monitors and how to use them.
However, the guidance states it is “important to remember that high CO2 levels in a room are not a direct proxy for infection risk”.
“CO2 monitors are intended to help you identify areas that are poorly ventilated, so that you can explore what steps you can take to improve ventilation. There is no need to stop using the room.”
Prioritise ‘stuffy’ spaces
When placing the monitors, the guidance tells schools to “initially prioritise spaces that feel constantly stuffy or smell unpleasant as these are likely to be under-ventilated”.
Using a monitor in these spaces first “can help you prioritise action effectively”.
The monitors are “best suited” to spaces which are densely occupied “for approximately one hour or more”.
This includes teaching spaces, indoor play spaces, staff rooms, large offices, meeting rooms, group or breakout rooms.
But monitoring is not recommended in areas where the monitors are “unlikely to give reliable readings”, such as large, open internal spaces and spaces with higher ceilings, or spaces that are densely occupied for shorter periods, such as corridors or lobbies.
Monitor rooms for ‘at least one day’
Rooms should be monitored for “at least one full day” before rotating them to a different space. Monitors should be placed at “head height when seated”, away from ventilation outlets and at least 0.5 metres away from people.
Staff “may wish” to check the measure mid-way through classes and at the end, or ask someone else in class to do so. There “should be no need to interrupt a lesson to take a reading”.
The monitors supplied by the DfE will include a red light that comes on to indicate poor ventilation, but they will also show a value of CO2 concentration that can be monitored.
The guidance states that good ventilation can “help reduce the risk” of spreading coronavirus, and that a focus on improving air flow, “preferably through fresh air or effective mechanical systems, can help to create a safer environment for staff and students”.
“You can generally maintain and increase the supply of fresh air by opening windows and doors – although fire doors must remain closed.”