Teachers say air pollution worsens students’ concentration and performance

More than three quarters of UK teachers noticed that poor air quality caused concentration problems in students, while over half said performance or grades suffered, reveals a new report.  

72% of classrooms suffer from ait quality that is ‘below standard’, according to the survey which asked teachers across the UK about their school’s working conditions.

Nearly three in five teachers deemed a classroom with poor air quality to be ‘not fit for purpose’ – for either teachers or pupils.

woman in black long sleeve shirt holding white face mask

The Air Quality in UK Classrooms Report – conducted by ventilation experts Airflow – asked teachers at 133 schools across the UK for their insights.

The report found that conditions impacted student health, with three in five (61%) teachers believing classroom air quality is aggravating asthma and other lung conditions in pupils.

Ill-effects on health were 55% more likely in cities, where both industrial and road pollution are more prevalent.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of all teachers surveyed said poor air quality is affecting teachers’ physical and mental health. While 31% of those at schools with ‘below standard’ air quality reported that despite requesting improvements, no action has been taken.

However, more than a quarter (27%) said their school is trying to improve air quality, but cannot due to a lack of funding or government support.

Faced with sub-standard air quality, teachers identified the changes they want schools to make:

  • Replace old heating appliances (which can contribute to indoor air pollution) – 72%
  • Install air filtration or purification systems – 71%
  • Ban cars on streets with schools during school run times – 38%
  • Relocate playgrounds and classroom windows away from roads – 32%

Nicola D’Urso, School Speech and Language Therapist, commented: ‘Some schools I work in have indoor areas which are poorly ventilated without any windows. I’ve seen examples of children fainting and disengaging due to dehydration in excessively hot and stuffy classrooms. It’s not uncommon for children to become drowsy and even the brightest students can stop interacting in lessons. I notice caring and responsible teachers often having to prioritise children’s health and wellbeing during lessons instead of teaching them the educational content.

‘The main obstacle is that senior leadership teams in schools are at the mercy of their local council’s policy on clean air and limiting air pollution. The roadblock for schools is that it’s a bit out of their hands given that it’s up to the council and the government to get a grasp of air pollution and put adequate policies in place.’

Photo by Kelly Sikkema


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