Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on the Government to deliver clear guidelines to schools on ventilation, particularly for the colder Winter months.
Speaking today after addressing the issue at the Oireachtas Education Committee with the Teaching and School Staff unions, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“It is now increasingly clear from the science that ventilation is a crucial part of the equation when it comes to managing infection in schools.
“However, many older schools have no options when it comes to ventilation except to open doors and windows. This has obvious difficulties – I have heard of many reports of students being cold in their classrooms and of teachers having to bring hot water bottles into school to keep warm whilst teaching.
“It also leaves schools making difficult decisions around the wearing of coats and hats in school, and decisions on who has to sit next to the open windows.
“It is unfair that the schools have been left to make these decisions, because of a lack of any specific, revised guidance from the Department on ventilation in the winter months. We need detailed guidance on this urgently.
“The Government should consider additional funding to install air monitoring systems in every school, in accordance with HSPC advice. INTO today have suggested that the Department took out mention of air monitoring systems from draft guidance seen by the Union, before the final guidance was issued to schools. I can’t comprehend how that could come to pass, it is extraordinary.
“Christmas provides a brilliant opportunity to address this problem. Schools are off for two weeks, so there is a window of opportunity here for the Department to contract for these air monitoring systems to be fitted.
“Whilst it does have an initial cost, these installations would pay for themselves in the long run, as it minimises the excessive heating bills that many schools are currently having to foot.
“This is the big issue facing our schools this winter. We all know that there are countless school buildings that are cold and not fit for purpose.
“The issue is severe, and the solution is simple. Students freezing in their classrooms cannot continue, nor can teachers be expected to teach in these conditions.
“The Government must act now to provide schools with the funding to implement alternative ventilation facilities; to delay action to Spring or later in the school year is too late.”