Fresh air improves performance of children in schools

Children drawing at a table in a classroom

A large number of children across Europe are working in classrooms with an inadequate supply of daylight and fresh air. Why is this a problem? New research has revealed that an optimum indoor environment can improve the performance of schoolchildren.

Despite improvements to school buildings across Europe in recent years, a large review from the German research institute, Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP, has revealed that children are frequently working in classrooms with excessive levels of CO2, above the recommended range of 1,000 – 2,000 ppm. The research also indicates that many classrooms do not supply adequate levels of daylight.

The researchers also found that improving ventilation rates, reducing CO2 concentration and increasing access to daylight in classrooms, improves pupils’ performance in the sense of speed, higher levels of attention and concentration and lower rates of absenteeism.

However, the benefits of higher levels of achievement in education are not confined to the children themselves. When comparing the educational levels between European countries, using a conditional test score based on PISA tests, the study reports that a correlation to the conditional growth within those countries exists.

Important statements from the study are:

  • There are currently 95,000,000 pupils in Europe
  • Recommended levels of CO2 are between 1,000 – 2,000 ppm. While levels below 1,000 ppm are considered as hygienically unproblematic, levels above 2,000 ppm are hygienically unacceptable
  • Studies have reported that many schools have CO2 levels above this recommended range

Improved indoor environment = improved performance

  • An average increase in performance by 2.8%, and even 15% in specific cases
  • Higher levels of attention and concentration
  • Lower rates of absenteeism
  • An increase of school childrens’ performance by 2.8% would lead to a 6.7% - 9.5% increase in the conditional growth of the country (based on the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita)

These results prove that ensuring a healthy indoor environment in schools must become a main priority for public authorities across Europe. Better buildings not only leads to brighter students, they are also good for the economy in terms of increased productivity. I am sure that this study will be the centre of much debate and act as a catalyst of change for the better in European schools,”

says Ingrid Reumert, VP, Global Stakeholder Communications & Sustainability at VELUX