The air quality in UK classrooms report, compiled by air movement company Airflow Developments

The air quality in UK classrooms report, compiled by air movement company Airflow Developments

Many causes of air pollution, such as vehicle emissions and industrial fumes, are more apparent outdoors, but air quality indoors can be equally poor. It can be a particularly acute problem in enclosed spaces like classrooms, with children being more vulnerable to the effects of pollution.

Airflow Developments have conducted a survey of teachers from 133 schools to discover what their classroom working conditions are, whether the air quality in UK schools is adequate for staff and students, and how schools can improve.

Key findings:

  • 72% of teachers say the air quality in their school is below standard
  • 90% of teachers think air quality impacts students’ or teachers’ health, behaviour or ability to work
  • 77% of teachers believe poor air quality affects student’s concentration
  • 71% of teachers want air filtration or purification systems installed
  • Over a quarter of teachers said their school is trying to improve air quality, but cannot due to a lack of funding or government support
  • 60% of teachers noticed a connection between schools’ poor air quality and worsening asthma/other lung conditions
  • 74% of Greater London teachers say air quality in classrooms is ‘below standard’
  • 61% of teachers in London said poor classroom air quality was making asthma/other lung conditions worse in children – double the number in the North East (29%)

As well as aggravating asthma and other lung conditions, poor air quality or ventilation is also detrimental to the mental wellbeing of students.

It’s also vital to consider how poor air quality impacts teachers. After all, it’s their place of work, where they’re expected to care for and educate children to the highest standards.

Spending all day with children, teachers gain real insight into their health. According to the survey, the impact of air quality on lung health/asthma is much more significant in urban classrooms than in rural ones: ill-effects were 55% more likely in cities, where both industrial and road pollution are more prevalent.

Among children in England, asthma is the leading cause of urgent hospital admissions. For children under 14 in London, nearly 10% of asthma admissions were due to pollution aggravating the condition, according to a 2014-16 study by King’s College London and Imperial College London.

The general consensus is that air quality is below standard: Wales was the only place where the majority of teachers thought their classroom air quality/ventilation was above standard.

With significant effects on students’ and teachers’ health, as well as concentration levels and learning outcomes, the issue of air quality warrants a place towards the top of government agendas.

There is also much that local councils and schools can do to alleviate the problem of air pollution, whether that’s investing in ventilation systems or introducing car-free school streets.