As many as 40% of classrooms in primary schools do not have adequate ventilation to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, potentially putting the health of schoolchildren and teachers at risk, research has suggested.
However, the study by Coventry University also concluded the main reason for this was down to human behaviour rather than infrastructure, with teachers and pupils simply failing to leave open doors or windows regularly enough.
The research found this, in turn, was linked to the different thresholds for temperature between adults and children – with adults, essentially, feeling colder than children.
Coventry University PhD student Sepideh Korsavi, under the supervision of an indoor environmental quality expert Dr Azadeh Montazami, observed occupant-related factors of 805 children in 32 naturally ventilated classrooms in UK primary schools during cold and warm seasons.
The 40% inadequate ventilation rate suggested that a classroom with high potential for natural ventilation does not necessarily provide adequate indoor air quality, as it also relies on teachers and pupils actually opening windows and doors, the research argued.
Teacher health and safety
The study suggested around 15% of children felt overheated during cold seasons as well as warm seasons. It recommended increasing ventilation rates to help maintain air quality and a comfortable room temperature.
Dr Montazami said: “Teachers are mainly in charge of controlling the environment in classrooms and they open windows according to their own thermal threshold, which is higher than children’s.
“As most UK school classrooms are naturally ventilated, teachers should be informed about these differences and the consequence of their behaviour and be encouraged to open windows to reduce the risk of spreading Covid.”
Dr Korsavi, who is now a postdoctoral researcher on sustainable buildings at the University of Plymouth, added: “User-friendly and safe windows that are designed at two different levels for the height of both teachers and children can facilitate their window operations. Well-designed naturally ventilated schools that are operated effectively by school occupants can increase ventilation rates and reduce the risk of spreading Covid.”