Ministers are being urged to use next week’s Scottish Budget to find the cash to put two air purifiers in every classroom in the country to help curb the spread of Covid.
Labour education spokesman Michael Marra called on the Scottish Government to act, accusing them of a “serious policy failure” so far.
Raising the issue at Holyrood, he said: “At its most visible, this debate could be said to be about children sat shivering in our schools, unable to learn, teachers freezing in their classrooms unable to teach.”
He added: “We know that Covid is with us to stay and teachers are now beginning to wonder whether this is simply going to be the reality of Scottish winter months.
“I know the Government are committed to expanding outdoor learning. I would suggest there are better ways to go about it than bringing the Scottish winter indoors.”
Research by Harvard University in America suggested that the use of portable air purifiers could reduce transmission rates of airborne virus by 50%, while high-efficiency particulate absorbing (Hepa) filters could remove up to 80% of airborne virus, Mr Marra said.
He called for two of these to be installed in every classroom in Scotland, insisting: “This is the best route to providing robust ventilation that will better protect health and, by limiting the spread of the virus, minimise potential further loss of time in schools for our children.
“It is the correct approach that the Government should back, and they should fund it in the Budget.”
His plea was backed by Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell, who said it was “certainly worth giving a try”.
He added: “If it provides a bit of reassurance to parents, if it provides a bit of reassurance to pupils, if it provides a bit of reassurance to teachers themselves it would be money well spent and an investment worth making”.
Similarly, Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie said ministers currently relied on using CO2 monitors to measure air quality and “opening windows” in classrooms.
With the new Omicron variant “posing greater threats to us” he insisted that the Government had a duty to “step up, evolve its position and make sure we are doing the right things for our schools”.
Ms Somerville said: “Ensuring all learning and teaching spaces are adequately ventilated is vital.
“It remains one of the most important ways we can reduce the risks of airborne Covid transmission and keep our schools as safe as possible.”
She told MSPs the Scottish Government had worked closely with experts at the Health and Safety Executive, local councils and others to put in place guidance on CO2 monitoring in schools.
And she insisted “significant funding” had been allocated – saying some of a £90 million fund was used by local authorities to improve school ventilation, as well as £10 million to ensure schools and day care centres for children had CO2 monitoring.
Ms Somerville said: “Around 22,000 CO2 monitors have been purchased to date, and all initial assessments of learning, teaching and play spaces in Scotland are now complete.
“Only in relatively few cases were the recommended CO2 levels exceeded and remedial action required.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe