Government updates incorrect school heatwave guidance

Changes made to guidance for schools and a DfE blog post after errors discovered in symptoms for heat exhaustion

Changes made to guidance for schools and a DfE blog post after errors discovered in symptoms for heat exhaustion

18 Jul 2022, 16:33

Closed school gates as more than 100 schools shut their doors due to the heatwave

The government has been forced to update guidance for schools on dealing with the current heatwave which contained incorrect information about heat exhaustion symptoms.

But schools are still not being advised to close, prompting criticism from school leaders.

Guidance issued by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, and UK Health Security Agency last Friday listed “hot, red and dry skin” as one of the potential symptoms of heat exhaustion.

However, the NHS advises that “excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin” is a sign of the condition on its own website.

The government has since updated the guidance for schools after the error was discovered.


The Department for Education has also updated a blog post for schools which also contained the incorrect information. However, the blog post now lists a slightly different set of symptoms to the other piece of schools guidance, although this is the same as is on the NHS’s website.

All government departments involved were approached for comment.

Dozens of schools close as temperatures soar

It comes as dozens of schools in England closed their doors to pupils due to the heatwave.

An analysis by Schools Week shows that at least 104 schools, including both primary and secondary, will be shut for at least one of the days.

With the Met Office’s red alert for extreme heat currently covering much of central and south-eastern England, closures are also widespread.

Regions including Lincolnshire, Nottingham, Oxfordshire, South Yorkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Worcestershire all have several schools unable to open for children due to the heat.

The Met Office has warned that while the UK could see “the hottest day in UK history” so far on Monday, Tuesday could be even hotter, with some forecasts predicting highs of 43C.

DfE still not advising schools to close in heatwave

But the Department for Education has so far said they are “not advising” schools to close, which some have interpreted as an expectation they stay open.

Instead, it has stated that school leaders should “make sure they take any steps necessary” to ensure pupils are “safe and comfortable”.

Meanwhile, the education secretary James Cleverly said: “School is the best place for children and we are not telling them to close.”

The DfE guidance to education providers has drawn criticism from some corners.

Chris Dyson, head of Parklands Primary School in Leeds commented in an email to staff: “The DfE have made it clear that schools are to remain open […] having some one dictate from an air conditioned office or working from home means nothing to me.”

Also raising concerns among some in the sector is Ofsted‘s decision to continue with school inspections this week.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said on Twitter that he was aware of two schools in Barnet, North London, receiving notifications of inspections on Tuesday.

“DfE and OFSTED out of touch and not taking school concerns seriously,” he commented.

Ofsted has said it would continue to inspect providers that remained open during the severe weather “where possible”.

But it added that providers can request a deferral based on “reasonable factors” if they have concerns about the timing of their inspection or visit.

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