WHO report - School environment: policies and current status


Why focus on the indoor environment in schools?

Children are exposed to poor indoor environments in schools in many countries in the WHO European Region, with issues including stuffy air, dampness and mould, uncomfortable temperatures and poorly functioning toilets. This not only causes ill health and absenteeism but also reduces children's academic performance and well-being.

The WHO report, School environment: policies and current status

The new WHO report presents the results of a recent WHO survey on policies to improve environmental and health conditions in European schools and kindergartens. It also draws on other international and national surveys in schools. The report's findings will contribute to discussions at the mid-term review of the European Environment and Health Process in Haifa, Israel, on 28–30 April 2015. 

Indoor air quality 

Policies to improve indoor air quality in schools and kindergartens exist in most countries, especially high-income countries, and include standards on ventilation. Poor ventilation and stuffy air in classrooms is a common problem in some countries during the cold season, however, with negative effects on respiratory health, absenteeism, academic performance and the well-being of pupils. 

Access to adequate sanitation facilities and hygiene practices

Most countries have comprehensive policies to improve sanitation and hygiene in schools and kindergartens.

Improving sanitation and hygiene in schools remains a challenge in countries with limited resources. Poor infrastructure and inadequate maintenance of facilities are reasons behind pupils' low satisfaction with toilets and hygiene facilities and their scarce use of them.

Essential actions

Essential actions to address these problems include:

  • improving inspections,
  • enforcing compliance with existing standards
  • taking into account pupils' perceptions and needs.


Read the full report: School environment: Policies and current status