Practical steps for the deployment of good ventilation practices were provided to the school system in August, in the context of reopening for September 2020. Contrary to what the Deputy said, this guidance has recently been reviewed and was circulated to the education partners. The updated guidance has now been published.
As regards good ventilation practices in schools, it is important, particularly as we get further into winter, that we achieve an appropriate balance between good ventilation and comfort. The overall approach for schools should be to have windows open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use, for example, during break times, lunchtime and at the end of each school day, and partially open when classrooms are in use to achieve appropriate airflow. It is worth noting that windows do not need to be open as wide in windy or colder weather in order to achieve the same level of airflow into the classroom. This will assist in managing comfort levels in classrooms, including those in prefabricated accommodation, during periods of colder weather.
As part of managing comfort levels in classrooms, schools should check that their heating systems are set at the recommended manufacturer's guidance levels to maximise the heat available to the school. In addition, heating should operate for extended periods during colder weather to counteract, as best as possible, the impact of windows being open in order to maintain an appropriate balance between ventilation and comfort levels.
My Department has reviewed the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, HPSC, guidance recommending that consideration be given to installing indoor air quality monitors in classrooms. The purpose of a monitor in this context is to assist in determining when windows should be opened. It should be noted that an air monitor would not increase the air temperature in a classroom. As reflected in the updated guidance, my Department has concluded that it will likely be necessary for windows to be open at the frequency I outlined earlier to ensure appropriate levels of ventilation in classrooms, irrespective of whether the opening of windows is prompted by an indoor air quality monitor, which is a reactive approach, or through the proactive approach outlined in the guidance. While this matter, as well as supporting data, will be kept under review, the Department does not consider it necessary for schools to install such monitors in classrooms where the practical steps outlined in the updated guidance are applied. However, it is a matter for individual schools to consider whether they wish to put in place mechanisms of this nature.