Swings + Roundabouts Winter 2022

This is our Winter issue and that also means it’s our Budget issue! And surprise, surprise – there’s also the Emissions Reduction Plan. I felt so proud to work for the Early Childhood Council when I was writing this column. We had just delivered a really successful webinar on helping to prepare early learning centres on how to approach the subject of ventilation ahead of Winter, with superb support from the Ministry of Education, Worksafe and Dr Alison Leversha from Auckland DHB. Why ventilation? Ventilation has always been an important part of the ECE regulations as poor ventilation is harmful to people’s health. Regulations require centres to have ventilation that allows fresh air to circulate, and centres must be designed to comply with the Building Code. It’s all just compliance, right? Close scrutiny on ventilation in centres was prompted by ventilation becoming one of the key health measures in the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF) for early learning. If you compare the health measures available in the early learning CPF they are much more limited than what schools had. Education no longer has mandatory vaccination requirements for staff, masks have never been a requirement for children or teachers in early learning and, physical distancing was never imposed (it would be impossible to enforce on very young children). This means that what we do about ventilation in centres becomes a really critical part of how we keep people safe from COVID-19. Technology has changed but it seems that, for now, some older technologies still work best of all when it comes to ventilation. Some people are surprised that the Ministry of Education’s advice focuses on using windows and doors for ventilation and that other newer technologies are much lower-order (like air purifiers with HEPA filters). Newer technologies get lower-order treatment because they MESSAGE CEO's are less effective at delivering effective ventilation compared to using windows and doors. It is not about the cost it’s about what practice is most effective in each setting. Let this be a good lesson to us, to not thoughtlessly discard older approaches and assume the best from what is shiny and new. And in terms of being inquisitive, think carefully about what problem you are trying to solve. Is it actually a new problem? No. So, why wouldn’t we turn first to the tried-and-true practices of using windows and doors for air flow? On top of this, I think it also reveals a behavioural preference we all have. To want to solve a problem by the most convenient route. As we were all scrambling to the next COVID-19 challenge in late 2021 and early 2022 it would have been nice if we could have just purchased a new technology, a “new thing” that makes the problem simply go away. In this case, we already know that ventilation wasn’t actually a new problem. We must move away from that kind of simplistic approach – at its core is consumerism, not effectiveness. We need effectiveness because that is what helps achieve the health objectives for the children and staff working in the centre. More on sustainable approaches in a moment. The problem is that ventilation is dealing with something invisible, un-smellable and untastable. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the principle gas that the air monitors detect, isn’t harmful itself. We use the detection of that gas as a proxy for particles of COVID-19 virus because high concentrations of carbon dioxide is generally indicative of poor ventilation. If you establish effective ventilation then the COVID-19 is similarly removed (along with CO2) from the room. I think it’s best we trust the medical and research advice that shows that infection occurs through the airborne transmission of virus particles (invisible droplets). Remember in the earlier part of the pandemic there were those times when people contracted COVID while in MIQ and they June 2022 { 8 }