Schools plan non-uniform days and early finishes for ‘extreme’ heatwave

The Met Office has warned temperatures could top 35C on Monday

The Met Office has warned temperatures could top 35C on Monday

14 Jul 2022, 16:48

A teacher outside with primary school children. Schools are trying to make use of shaded areas outside during the heatwave

Schools are planning non-uniform days, keeping pupils inside at breaktime and finishing early to cope with next week’s extreme heatwave, as the Department for Education advises against closures.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat across large parts of England between Sunday and Tuesday, with temperatures potentially soaring past 35C in the southeast.

Several schools across the country have already issued their own plans for Monday and Tuesday, with the DfE emphasising that individual school leaders are “responsible for their own local circumstances”.

How are schools planning for ‘extreme heat’ next week?

The Hereford Academy in the West Midlands has condensed it timetable for next week. The secondary school’s pupils can start early and finish at 2pm to be “away from for the hottest part of the day”.

Its sports day is also being brought forward to avoid the scorching temperatures next week.

Rosedale Primary School in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, has cancelled PE lessons, some classes will be moved to cooler areas of the school and kids will be kept instead for its lunchtime break.

In a Facebook post, it told parents that both days would be non-uniform “so children can wear something that is comfortable and keeps them cool”.

“Children won’t be going outside during lunchtime break as it’s at the hottest point of the day. They’ll do indoor activities instead,” it read.

“For morning and afternoon breaks teachers will take the children outside but they’ll sit in the shade so they have a break but aren’t in the sun or running around.”

St John’s CE Middle School Academy in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, has asked children to come into school wearing loose, light but “appropriate” clothing on the two days. “For example no crop tops or very short shorts,” it said in a tweet.

It added that ice pops would be on sale to children for 50p, with proceeds going to Cancer Research, while children would be “encouraged not to run” during breaktime to prevent heat exhaustion.

Over in Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, Our Lady Catholic Primary School posted a request for “marquees” so staff could provide children with extra shade on the field.

With the the mercury already rising ahead of next week’s searing temperatures, a number of schools, including St Matthias CE Primary School in Worcestershire and Richmond Primary School in Hinckley, Leicestershire, have also cancelled sports days planned for this week.

A survey of 3,519 secondary teachers by Teacher Tapp last month found that 7 per cent worked in classrooms where they were unable to open the windows, while only 10 per cent had access to air conditioning.

What is DfE’s heatwave advice for schools?

In an update to education providers this afternoon, DfE underlined the government’s heatwave plan guidance for teachers and other professionals in education and early years settings.

It notes that children are unable to control their body temperature as efficiently as adults during hot weather because they do not sweat as much, putting them at risk of side effects including dehydration, heat stress and exhaustion, and heatstroke.

During heatwaves, school staff are advised to follow a raft of measures, including the following:

  • Encouraging children to wear “loose, light-coloured clothing” and “sunhats with wide brims” to school
  • Open windows as early as possible in the morning before children arrive, or overnight to allow stored heat to escape the building
  • Keeping the use of electric light to a minimum and switching off electric equipment, such as computers, when not in use
  • Using oscillating mechanical fans when temperatures are below 35C, but not above as they may not prevent heat-related illness and could worsen dehydration

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