THE availability of air cleaning units designed to cut down on Covid cases in schools has been criticised by an MP and headteachers.

Schools with poor ventilation can apply from 7,000 units made available, following a further 1,000 Department for Education (DfE) funded units announced in November for SEND settings.

An online marketplace via the DfE provides a route to purchase units directly from suppliers, however these cost up to £1,170.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran labelled the 7,000 units ‘paltry’.

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She said: “The safety of children and teachers is of paramount importance, and frankly the Government has never taken it seriously enough.

“The paltry 7,000 air purifiers announced by the Government is not enough.

“They could have already installed one in every classroom in England for around half the money they intend to spend on a new royal yacht.

“It’s time for the Government to make education a priority, instead of treating our children as an afterthought.”

Oxford Mail: Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran. Picture: Richard CaveOxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran. Picture: Richard Cave

Rob Pavey, headteacher at Cheney School, said the Headington school is seeking alternative ways to clean the air.

He said: “None of our rooms are badly enough ventilated to qualify, but if we did, it would be major work.

“We’re doing our own tests on what is most effective and what has been having some effect is putting fans in the corner of a classroom, to blow air into the corridor, and opening fire doors to get the air flowing.

“It’s a really simple solution, which the data shows is working.

“It’s intermediate technology and nothing more than a sticking plaster though.

“What we need is professional advice and the funding for that.”

Oxford Mail: Cheney School headteacher Rob Pavey. Picture: Ed NixCheney School headteacher Rob Pavey. Picture: Ed Nix

Ridgeway Education Trust oversees Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School – in addition to Sutton Courtenay CE Primary School and Didcot Sixth Form.

The trust’s executive headteacher Rachael Warwick said: “One of the key concerns is ventilation in schools, and it would be great if more ventilation was available.

“If we were to buy air purifiers, that expenditure isn’t refunded to schools.

“There’s a fine balance for us at the moment with the air flow as having windows open all the time makes the classroom cold and difficult for children to concentrate.”

Oxford Mail: Ridgeway Education Trust executive headteacher Rachael Warwick. Picture: David FlemingRidgeway Education Trust executive headteacher Rachael Warwick. Picture: David Fleming

A DfE spokesperson said: “Air cleaning units are not needed in the vast majority of classrooms – only where there is poor ventilation that cannot be easily improved.

“Based on feedback from schools that there are only very few cases where good ventilation is not possible, we are supplying up to 8,000 air cleaning units from next week.

“Together with mass testing, bringing in supply staff and the hard work of schools and teachers, we are confident that our measures will maximise classroom time for students.”