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The Department for Education has launched an online “marketplace” for schools to buy purifiers to help tackle Covid, recommending units which cost up to £1,170 each.
Schools Week revealed last month the DfE planned to provide 1,000 air cleaning units for alternative provision and specialist or mainstream SEND settings – but was refusing to fund them for other schools.
The government has today confirmed deals with six approved suppliers to sell two recommended units for schools at agreed prices, with schools now able to place orders.
The products are the Dyson Pure Cool Formaldehyde TP09, which costs £424.82 per unit, and the Camfil City M, costing £1170 per unit. Multiple general retailers are selling the Dyson unit for around £600 online.
Both products are said to remove more than 99.9 per cent of ultrafine particles in the air.
The DfE told school leaders by email: “In the very few cases where an area of poor ventilation has been identified and this cannot be resolved through opening windows and doors or minor repair works, it may be appropriate to consider the use of an air cleaning unit as an additional mitigation whilst further remedial work is undertaken to improve ventilation.
“However, it should be noted that they are not a substitute for ventilation and should never be used as a reason to reduce ventilation.”
But the government has faced demands to fund the units for all schools amid discontent at leaving windows open during winter. James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, previously told Schools Week policy should not mean that “only those schools that can afford them are able to access them.”
The National Education Union also called for the government to “urgently invest in air filtration devices” today, as part of its newly published alternative, tougher “Plan B” than the government’s latest Covid measures.
Some devices can cover greater areas than others, but Labour has called in Scotland for funding for two devices in every classroom.
Schools Week analysis suggests that it would cost the DfE roughly £284.7m to fund Dyson units in every English classroom, based on official data on average class sizes and pupil numbers. Funding one per classroom would cost £142.3m.
Funding two of the more expensive Camfil City M units would cost £784m.
Schools themselves instead face a bill of around £5,930 if they want one of the cheaper Dyson units per classroom. If they opt for two of the more expensive model per classroom, it would set them back £32,666.
Household appliances firm Dyson is owned by the inventor Sir James Dyson, a prominent Brexit supporter and Britain’s fourth richest man, according to the Sunday Times rich list. Camfil is a global air filtration firm headquartered in Sweden.
The DfE defines poor ventilation as areas with sustained CO2 readings above 1500ppm on carbon dioxide monitors. A Schools Week investigation found some schools have identified levels up to three times higher than this reading.