It’s been an interesting and emotional few years to be a human on this planet. I’ve really struggled since 2016 and the UK Brexit vote. Then we had Trump, then Covid. Working through these events has taken its toll and I don’t think things have eased up at all since the start of Covid. For me the sheer incompetence of government and those we look at for leadership has been my biggest problem. In a critical time for global politics we have the dregs and shit of the current tory party “leading” this country. Anyway, rather than descend into utter madness I want to consider safe levels of CO2 in the rooms where I work.
To encourage schools to get back in in person teaching during the pandemic the government went on about open windows and flow-through of air. The concept was that if the air was flowing then the virus would be washed outside with lower chances of infecting anyone in the room – made up science I know and very few actual tests completed on this – so as a proxy for “fresh air” which was a proxy for “safe” the government introduced CO2 monitors in classrooms as a proxy for “fresh air”. If the CO2 level is high it means there isn’t enough fresh air and therefore a higher risk of virus transmission.
So all the classrooms in my place of work have CO2 monitors. Anything that follows in this communication is not a criticism of my place of work. It’s more a criticism of the entire sector and the things we have to put up with as we do our best to educate the young of today for tomorrow. The problems are endemic within the education sector because of poor design and a lack of funds.
Here is some information on levels of CO2 that I have found in many places on the internet.
Here’s what my working room CO2 monitor said at the end of the working day – and I had only had three out of five hours of work there.
The temperature of 19C is a sensible level. This was maintained by having the windows shut. But the problem with that is the CO2 levels have hit over 4500ppm. This is clearly into the “headaches, sleepiness etc” levels of bad gas. If they go much higher then I am at risk should I be exposed for eight hours. We all know I am a teacher. These measurements now explain why some children suffer in stuffy rooms. It explains all those headaches. There have always been stuffy rooms in schools and teachers broadly do what they are told. I will try and teach wherever I have to. It’s not like everyone can have their lessons in the best room at the time.
This measurement of CO2 has highlighted just how little we are served with traditional classrooms. The building I work in is a 21C development. But it is poorly designed with very little through-flow of air. The heating is “ceiling based” – I kid you not – there are radiators in the ceiling. To have a breeze in the room I have to open my windows and many fire doors. This is not really acceptable and I work in a good school with decent resources. There are going to be plenty of places where the conditions are much worse.
What I think has to happen is an assessment of all rooms in schools and then redesign of those rooms or buildings. I know that’s expensive. I know it’s not going to happen. I know people have put up with this for all the past times but now we know and we have to opportunity to change things. To make schools healthier and better to work in and learn in.