Covid: Councillor criticises delay in Torbay schools receiving monitors

Councillor Lee Howgate

Cllr Lee Howgate criticised the delay - Credit: Torbay Liberal Democrats

A Torbay councillor has blasted the Government for its 'too little, too late approach' after it was revealed none of the promised CO2 monitors that could help protect against Covid have reached Torbay’s schools.

In August, the Department for Education committed to spending £25 million on 300,000 monitors for state schools.

But with the school year now underway, Torbay hasn’t received any.

The devices identify areas with poor ventilation by tracking carbon dioxide built up from people’s breath. This in turn shows where Covid may be spreading through airborne transmission.

Councillor and schoolteacher Lee Howgate criticised the delay.

He said:  “The fantastic efforts of school staff and the safety measures taken by parents are being jeopardised by a too little, too late approach to air quality by the Conservative Government.

“Instead of giving schools what they need to succeed, the Government has rashly stopped schools having sensible mitigations and even the most basic Covid precautions.

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"Now, on top of all that, schools are being forced to wait for simple air monitors. 

“This cavalier approach to school safety has Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson looking more and more adrift, exactly when we need a firm hand in control.

"But, instead of help from Government, we have dither and delay, over and over again.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ventilation is just one measure we are advising schools to take, alongside on-site testing and increased hygiene, to strike the balance between keeping staff, students and families safe and minimising disruption to education.

“Special schools have been prioritised to receive a monitor first given they care for the most vulnerable children, but monitors are being rolled out more widely to all schools as quickly as possible.”

The Government has promised that schools will begin to receive  monitors over the autumn term.

A Torbay Council spokesperson said the council welcomed the Government's offer of CO2 monitors and recommended that secondary school staff and pupils wear face coverings in communal areas.

They added: “We’re awaiting confirmation of the delivery dates of the CO2 monitors and once we receive them, our health and safety teams will liaise with individual schools to support them in their use.

“We will continue to work closely with schools to monitor the results and any modifications that may be required.”