BBC News: Gavin Williamson grilled on ventilation in schools
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Education Secretary Mr Williamson has been strongly defending the decision to allow school pupils to return to the classroom – despite the Delta variant of Covid continuing to keep daily infections in their tens of thousands. Pupils in Scotland returned two weeks ago but the reopening of schools is believed to have contributed significantly to a rise in coronavirus cases north of the border. Schools and colleges are being encouraged to maintain increased hygiene and ventilation, with secondary school and college pupils in England urged to continue to take lateral flow tests at school, three to five days apart.
But during a stormy interview on BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Williamson came under pressure over what would happen if teachers found themselves and pupils in a classroom with no operational windows and therefore no ventilation.
The flustered Education Secretary skirted around the issue before providing a vague answer, which infuriated former Labour spin doctor Mr Campbell.
He raged on Twitter: “How is he still in charge of our schools?”
During a tense interview on BBC Breakfast, presenter Charlie Stayt grilled Mr Williamson on the issue of a lack of ventilation in some classrooms as pupils return to school.
He asked: “For the first time I’m, going to try and get you to concentrate on the question, which is a room, I want you to talk about that room for teacher.
“A room with no window and no ventilation.
“The wider issues are one thing but I want you to talk about that room and what happens next?”
Mr Williamson replied: “We are doing a whole set of measures and of course the vaccine programme is the key reason we can return to normality.”
There was a brief attempt at an interruption from Mr Stayt before the Education Secretary continued: “We are always looking at how we can improve the security, striking that sensible balance between getting children back into school but also dealing with a whole pandemic.
But the clearly frustrated BBC Breakfast presenter interrupts again, with another attempt to get Mr Williamson to answer the question he had first put to him.
He said: “Mr Williamson, I’m really trying to make sure we aren’t talking over each other but I’m very keen you address that issue.
“I have a teacher with a classroom with no ventilation and no windows.
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“I’m trying to work out what happens in that circumstance.
“Are you as the Education Secretary say: ‘For the time being, don’t use that room’, because you cannot make that room compliant with the principles you are talking about.
“That room, don’t use it. Is that what you would advise?”
But Mr Williamson replied: “That’s not what I’m saying and that is why we have a programme of CO2 monitors because even though that room may not have windows that can open, it doesn’t mean to say there is a problem in terms of ventilation in that room.
“That is what we have a programme of CO2 monitors that are available.”
This led the BBC Breakfast presenter to ask: “Have the schools got those monitors today?”
Mr Williamson replied: “They are being rolled out during this term.”
In a separate interview with LBC, the Education Secretary said he will move “move heaven and earth” to avoid shutting schools again.
But he admitted in another interview with Sky News that he could not rule out a rise in Covid infections being caused by children going back to class.
The Education Secretary admitted: “This is why we’re doing the testing programme and we’re encouraging children to take part in it, parents, and of course teachers and support staff as well. This is a way of rooting out Covid-19.
“We’re trying to strike that constant, sensible balance of actually giving children as normal experience in the classroom as possible, but also recognising we’re still dealing with a global pandemic.”
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