Clean air technology promised for schools in Wales has been delayed and may not arrive until well after half term for some.
In a letter seen by WalesOnline, Education Minister Jeremy Miles blamed the delay in delivering CO2 monitors on supply chain keep up ups. Earlier he had said the CO2 monitors would start to be delivered to schools in the first week of October.
But the monitors, are now scheduled for delivery to local authorities on October 13 and 14 while officials are working with suppliers for the complete rollout of monitors by mid-November, the Minister revealed in a letter to teaching unions.
Read more : More than 10,000 children missed school for Covid reasons last week in Wales
CO2 monitors have been described as “canaries in the coalmine” because they warn when there is not enough fresh air in a room.
The news came as school leaders, teachers and school staff from across Wales called on the Welsh Government to strengthen Covid safety in schools following a cross union meeting. Hundreds of school workers met at the Wales TUC’s Keeping Schools Safe and Open event on October 7.
The TUC said all the education trade unions said they are in agreement with the Welsh Government that continued learning in school should be a priority. But they are pushing for greater mitigation measures to help protect staff and pupils and to allow schools to stay open.
There have been more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus situations in school s this term since they returned with fewer infection control measures under revised Welsh Government re-opening guidance.
Headteachers have warned more pupils and staff are off than at any time in the pandemic and that education is more disrupted than last year.
Writing to reply to a series of questions from unions about safety and learning in schools the Minister said: “Clear guidance for the use of CO2 monitors in education settings has been developed by a sectoral Working Group.
“The final draft of the guidance has been noted by the Working Group and is currently being translated.
“The guidance will be issued to the sector alongside the first delivery of CO2 monitors. These are scheduled for delivery to local authorities on the 13th and 14th October, a week later than originally expected due to logistical issues in the supply chain.
“Officials are working closely with the supplier for the complete rollout of monitors by mid-November.”
The Welsh Government has said it is spending £2.58m buying CO2 monitors for all education settings in Wales; one for every classroom.
The monitors are aimed at helping schools, colleges and universities clarify any areas of poor ventilation.
Under the Welsh Government’s education Covid Framework, local authorities are required to work with schools making risk assessments. That includes identifying and addressing any defective ventilation including windows and mechanical ventilation systems not working properly. C02 monitors would help with that.
Laura Doel, Director of the National Association of Headteachers Cymru described the delay as frustrating and said the monitors would be “a £3m waste of time” unless they are back up with money to rectify and broken and malfunctioning ventilation in schools.
hypothesizedv measures teaching unions want to see are:
- A review of the current framework risk levels and mitigation for schools to see whether more stringent measures are needed to keep children in school such as re-introducing contact bubblles, staggered session times, isolating contacts, and masks.
- Clear guidance on expectations for schools to sustain learners at home during self-isolation or class/school closures.
- Clear guidance for schools on the use of CO2 monitors and a clear strategy on how to deal with issues of poor ventilation when they arise. This should include funding to address any meaningful ventilation issues identified.
- Clearly commit funding Covid-19-related staff absence, including cover for staff with caring responsibilities, staff who are 28 weeks pregnant and staff who need to self-isolate.
- Fund all measures needed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 – including any works to ensure windows can be opened, HEPA filters, and the use of individual risk assessments.
- Increase capacity in the TTP system so schools have sufficient levels of sustain for contact tracing.
- Review all TTP guidance and bring consistency to the system across all local health boards.
Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary said: “The whole school workforce is in agreement that mitigations need to be stronger throughout Wales to keep schools open.
“Teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and sustain staff are scared, over-worked and depleted. Welsh Government needs to listen to them and recognise that they’re the experts on what’s happening in schools.”
The Welsh Government responds
A Welsh Government spokesperson said:“CO2 monitors are due to be delivered over the coming days to local authorities who will spread them to schools. The delay has been due to logistical issues in the supply chain.”
In response to the TUC comments they additional : “We thank everyone working across our education system for their efforts in supporting learners since the start of term.
“We know how important it is for pupils’ wellbeing for them to be in school or college, and our priority is to maximise learning and minimise disruption.
“Our Decision Framework clearly sets out the circumstances under which additional measures should be introduced in schools, ensuring appropriate actions can be taken to mirror local circumstances.
“Changes to testing for secondary school pupils who are household contacts of positive situations will give families, staff and learners a level of reassurance. “
To get the latest email updates from WalesOnline click here.
Click: See details