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Classroom ventilation targets may need to be increased

Higher standards might need to be applied to ventilation in school classrooms alongside effective monitoring of air quality to ensure the best learning environment for students.

Research at Reading University and University College London was highlighted by the Times Educational Supplement last week which suggested the Government’s new school building programme needed to pay more attention to the issue.

Prof Clements-Croome, who led the research at Reading University, said it was an issue at both newly built schools and existing educational buildings.

He said: 'They are trying to keep energy use down in schools, but that should not be at the expense of creating poor environmental conditions for children.

'During times when carbon dioxide concentrations are high we have carried out tests which show that reaction time and concentration falls off which shows it is detrimental to performance.

“We need to get enough fresh air and ventilation in place so this is not one of the things which holds pupils back.'

Prof Clements-Croome described the eight Reading schools where he conducted research as typical of primary schools built over the last 20 years and the focus of the research was to see the effect of carbon dioxide levels on the learning process.

He suggested that as a result of the research changes might need to be made in the way school classroom environments are managed and the Government should look at revising its existing carbon dioxide limits for school classrooms down from  the  average  figure  of 1,500 parts per million.

He said: 'Our work shows that you need a minimum level of ventilation of eight litres per second per person and need to make sure carbon dioxide levels do not go above a maximum of 1,000 parts per million and an even lower level of 750 parts per million would be desirable.

'You also need to install carbon dioxide monitors in schools as well as temperature monitors. These will help to guide teachers as to when to open windows or switch on a fan if carbon dioxide levels become too high.'

Prof Clements-Croome said his latest research is being submitted for publication to the international journal Indoor Air and he is hopeful of taking this work further.

He said: 'We will be following this up. We need to look at a broader sample of schools and need to look properly at ventilation in the new schools being built to replace the old ones to see if their performance is any better.'