Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Education and Skills
414. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide a copy of the technical guidance to be supplied for schools advising on the purchase or hiring of HEPA filtration systems through the minor works programme; the details of the person or body that provided the engineering advice; if it was approved by NPHET; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [62859/21]
To provide additional support in the context of Covid-19 the payment of a minor works grant totalling €45m for primary schools and special schools, plus a once-off Covid-19 minor worksfunding of €17m for post-primary schools, was recently announced.
Given that each school setting is different, individual schools are best placed to decide how best to use this funding to address their particular needs.
Managing ventilation is one of a suite of public health measures in place to keep our schools safe.
The Department’s ventilation guidance for schools is very clear and practical on the steps to be taken by all schools to manage ventilation levels including in relation to the role of air cleaners in helping to deal with poorly ventilated areas. The practical steps and stepwise approach set out in the guidance are sufficient to ensure good ventilation practices in school while at the same time ensuring an appropriate balance between ventilation and comfort. www.gov.ie/en/publication/ad236-guidance-on-ventilation-in-schools/
The over-arching approach in the guidance is for schools to have windows open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use and partially open when classrooms are in use.
HEPA air cleaning devices are not a substitute for good ventilation but can be considered as an additional measure in conjunction with other methods of ventilation that are available pending the completion of structural interventions to address a poorly ventilated area. This is line with the Expert Group recommendations.
It is important to note that Air cleaners do not remove Carbon dioxide (CO2).The best way to reduce CO2levels in a room is to dilute it with fresh air.
There is no one solution that fits all scenarios, each application requires bespoke analysis and selection of the appropriate unit(s) matched to the specific room size and volume. If a school feels that its individual space may require specific technical specialist advice then the assistance of a Chartered Engineer or Registered Architect can be sought.
The Minor Works Grant announced can be used to address any small-scale ventilation improvement. In the event the school's engineer/ architect recommends a HEPA air cleaner to address a poorly ventilated area, relevant technical guidance can be found here: www.gov.ie/en/publication/c6578-room-air-cleaner-guidance-for-schools/
This guidance wasdeveloped by the Planning and Building Unit professional and technical team based on the Expert Ventilation Group report and Public health advice, and Departments
Technical Guidance Documents with no requirement for NPHET approval.
Should a school require larger scale ventilation work they may also apply for emergency works grant assistance in the normal way.
415. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria that will be applied to assess the eligibility of fee-paying schools for minor works support to acquire air filtration equipment; if the grant can be used against expenditure already committed to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [62860/21]
Schools in the fee-charging sector may apply for funding to support enhanced ventilation by submitting details of their specific requirements to Financial Support Services Unit.
Applications will be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account the specific requirements in relation to ventilation having regard to the Department’s published guidance.