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Would we let our kids skip breakfast before school?

We all want to make sure that our children get the best education but one thing we tend to forget is how important air quality, humidity levels and thermal comfort is for children’s learning capabilities.

Children spend a considerable amount of their time in crowded classrooms and most teachers are aware of how sound levels affect children’s learning abilities and therefore put a lot of effort in to keep noise done. However, teachers may not be aware of the impact of factors such as temperature and air quality, and often have no possibility to measure them.  

Increased ventilation rates can improve pupil performance   
When the carbon dioxide in a classroom is too high, pupils become restless and disruptive. They lose their concentration and their learning ability decreases significantly.  When the ventilation rate is doubled, research show that the students' performance  can rise by around 15%.
Moreover, cognitive testing of students shows a 5 % decrease in attention in poorly ventilated classrooms. The researches equate this to the effect of a student skipping breakfast. 

Children are sensitive to poor thermal condition
A study from 2015 in USA showed that students’ mean mathematics scores improved with increased ventilation rate and reduced temperature. For each additional liter of air per second and person in the room the test result improved by 0.5%. There were also a clear increase in test results for each 1°C decrease in temperature within the observed range of 20–25°C. 

Children are even more sensitive to poor thermal conditions and air quality than adults are. Studies has shown that poor thermal and air quality conditions can reduce performance by 15-30% for children compared to a decrease of 5-10% for adults in offices. 

An investment in education
For a teacher, it can be tempting to just open windows and doors, but this will create drafts, expose learners to outdoor noises, and waste valuable energy.  A better solution if the ventilation in a class room is not sufficient is to install smaller air handling units in each class room. In, the long run it may even be better to review and refurbish the whole ventilation system to optimize the indoor climate according to what science says is best for our learning ability. It will be a small investment compared to the costs of having pupils not being able to take full advantage of their education.  

We wouldn’t want our kids to go to school without breakfast, so why would put them in a bad learning environment?


  • Effects of Classroom Ventilation Rate and Temperature on Students’ Test Scores 
    Ulla Haverinen-Shaughnessy Richard J. Shaughnessy
  • The Effect of Low Ventilation Rates on the Cognitive Function of a Primary School Class
    David A. Coley,Rupert Greeves &Brian K. Saxby
  •  Ten questions concerning thermal and indoor air quality effects on the performance of office work and schoolwork.
    Wyon, D. P, & Wargocki, P.