Up to 2,000 schools sought for air quality monitoring project

Free monitors rollout follows calls for monitoring in public spaces by the chief medical officer

Free monitors rollout follows calls for monitoring in public spaces by the chief medical officer

Up to 2,000 schools are being sought for what is expected to be the “biggest study of air quality in schools anywhere in the world”.

The Schools’ Air quality Monitoring for Health and Education project, or SAMHE, will provide schools with free air quality monitors to measure carbon dioxide (CO2), total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), particulate matter (PM), temperature and relative humidity.

The programme is being run by the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York,  Imperial College London, and the University of Cambridge. The Department for Education wrote to schools today to encourage them to take part.

It follows calls from the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty for schools, offices, supermarkets and hospitals to be monitored for indoor air pollutants, prompted by fears about harms caused by dirty air.

The Guardian reported in 2021 that analysis by the campaign group Global Action Plan found more than a quarter of schools were in locations with high levels of small particle pollution.

The DfE said in an email to schools that they were “invited to register for a free air quality monitor, linked to a web app where teachers and pupils can view and use the data”.

The project “brings together scientists, pupils and teachers to help us understand indoor air quality in UK schools”. It is separate from a government scheme launched during the Covid-19 pandemic that distributed carbon dioxide monitors to schools.

Data will form national database

As well as being available to teachers and pupils, the data from each monitor will be “recorded in a national database”.

The programme’s website states it hopes “to recruit 1,000-2,000 schools covering the full range of school types, sizes, locations and building styles”.

“This will generate enough data for our project scientists to analyse to understand schools’ air quality across the UK. Our overall aim is to understand and improve long-term air quality for all schools.”

Dr Henry Burridge, project lead for SAMHE at Imperial College London, said its “overall aim is to understand and improve air quality for all schools and provide evidence for better national policies and practice”.

Twenty schools worked with the team to design the project while 120 helped test and refine the web app.

Elangeni School, one of those testing the app, said the “children’s enthusiasm has been infectious and there is tangible excitement at being able to access the data in real time at home”.

Schools can register online here.

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