Covid: Classrooms should still be used, DfE says, even if CO2 readings pass 1500ppm

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Schools should take action to improve ventilation if CO2 readings are “consistently higher than 1500ppm” but should still continue to use the room in question, Department for Education guidance has said.

However, the vast majority of schools will not be able to start testing their indoor spaces for ventilation issues because of the slow roll-out of CO2 monitors.

Just 517 monitors are due to be delivered this week to 41 schools. Next week will see 7,727 monitors delivered to a further 561 schools, and 4,997 are due to be delivered the week of September 20 to 406 schools.

The DfE has pledged to make around 300,000 Co2 monitors available “over the autumn term” at a cost of £25m to help schools identify the indoor spaces where ventilation is poor.

However, school leaders while welcoming the investment have questioned why this equipment has not been delivered in time for the start of term when we have known about the importance of ventilation in fighting Covid for some time.

The DfE guidance accompanying the roll-out – entitled How to use CO2 monitors in education and childcare settings – says that schools can expect to receive around one monitor for every two teaching rooms.

The document states: “It is important to remember that CO2 monitors are an indicator of ventilation status and not infection risk. You should take action to improve ventilation where CO2 readings are consistently higher than 1500ppm (parts per million). There is no need to stop using the room.”

Schools are advised that the monitors are best suited to spaces which are “densely occupied for approximately one hour or more”, including teaching spaces (lecture rooms, classrooms and practical teaching spaces) indoor play spaces (e.g. rooms in nurseries), staffrooms, large offices, meeting rooms, group or break-out rooms.

The guidance adds: “You can rotate monitors around the building and the spaces that are suitable for monitoring, so that you can identify ventilation needs across your setting. Rooms should be monitored for at least one full day before rotating them to a different space.”

Schools are advised that a consistent value under 800ppm “does not require any action and implies that a space is particularly well ventilated”. However, “a consistent value of over 800ppm should be seen as an early indicator to increase ventilation”.

A consistent value of 1500ppm in an occupied space is an indicator of poor ventilation. The guidance adds: “It is important to remember that high CO2 levels in a room are not a direct proxy for infection risk. CO2 monitors are intended to help you identify areas that are poorly ventilated, so that you can explore what steps you can take to improve ventilation.”

The DfE’s monitors are being supplied by two companies – Rexel and CEF (Flamefest). Any queries about missed deliveries or faulty devices should be directed to the companies themselves – see below.

  • DfE: Access to the DfE’s guidance for using CO2 monitors – How to use CO2 monitors in education and childcare settings – as well as delivery forecasts per-school for the coming weeks: https://bit.ly/3l2cLJR
  • The DfE’s guidance offers contact numbers for the supplied. Rexel can be contacted via 0330 0450 606 and CEF via 01926 350018. Meanwhile, the DfE’s own coronavirus helpline for schools is 0800 046 8687.


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