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Scottish government criticised for failure to develop robust ventilation system in schools

It is ‘unfathomable’ that staff are having to keep doors and windows open and ask pupils to layer up for a second winter, Scottish Teachers for Positive Change and Wellbeing says

A TEACHER and trade unionist has criticised the Scottish government for not developing a robust ventilation system in schools almost two years on into the pandemic.

Nuzhat Uthmani, of Scottish Teachers for Positive Change and Wellbeing (STPCW), said that it is “unfathomable” that, for a second winter, staff are having to keep doors and windows open and ask pupils to layer up.

She said that it is “shocking” that ministers are not investing in air-filtration units in schools to help keep them safer from Covid-19 spreading further.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Show, Ms Uthmani said: “It is unacceptable at this point in the pandemic for schools to have to tell their young people at the start of term to dress warmly.

“A number of schools have had to say that because windows and doors need to be kept open because we have nothing else.

“All we have is windows and doors to open, and it’s very cold.

“It seems unfathomable that schools are having to ask children to dress warmly as opposed to the government putting things in place.”

Ms Uthmani, an activist for the Educational Institute of Scotland  union, said members of STPCW have written a letter to Holyrood ministers and opposition MSPs raising their concerns about how little has been done to install better ventilation systems.

She said that the group has had little response and “none at all from any government ministers.”

She said: “We’ve had summer 2020, we’ve had summer 2021, we’ve had two winters and two periods of long lockdown where all these things could have been put in place.

“Yet nothing has happened to improve ventilation in our schools.”

“We’ve seen lots of countries around the world investing in those so that every class has a has a source of clean filtration.

“Even England has now made a move to start to order those and I would really like to know from the Cabinet Secretary when these are on order for Scottish schools.”

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Sommerville said that the importance of ventilation “is absolutely recognised,” encouraging unions to raise any issues they have with the government. 

Ms Sommerville pointed to the Scottish government’s £90 million for mitigation measures earlier in the pandemic, which included ventilation advice, and another £10m for CO2 monitoring.

She said that health and safety experts have argued some ventilation systems are not an appropriate substitute for natural ventilation. 

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