Temperatures next week could reach an unprecedented 40°C in England, and schools are taking measures to ensure pupils and staff are protected.
Some schools across the UK are already considering closing on Monday and Tuesday after the Met Office issued a first-ever red weather warning for extreme heat.
Others staying open will introduce measures such as adjusted timetables, closing early, allowing pupils to wear PE kits or rescheduling sports days.
Great Dunham Primary in Norfolk advised that all pupils should ‘wear PE kits rather than uniform on Monday and Tuesday’.
They added that pupils should bring a sunhat, suncream and water, and would not be allowed to play outside at lunchtime.
Another school to implement the PE kit rule is the Co-op Academy Swinton in Greater Manchester, which said the change on Monday and Tuesday was a ‘temporary adjustment to the requirements for uniform’.
Arnold Hill Spencer Academy in Nottingham also said pupils will have the option to wear their PE kit, while pupils preferring to wear uniform will not need to wear a blazer or tie on Monday or Tuesday.
On Thursday, the government signposted heatwave guidance for teachers, with guidance that children sweat less than adults and can not regulate their body temperature as well.
The guidance recommends teachers should encourage children to wear loose clothing and wide brimmed hats.
Teachers should open windows to provide ventilation before pupils arrive in the morning and keep the use of lights and electric equipment to a minimum.
Mechanical fans can be used at temperatures below 35°C but anything above makes dehydration worse.
The government warned that pupils with heat stress ‘may seem out of character and show signs of discomfort and irritability’, while signs of heat exhaustion can include tiredness, nausea and confusion.
St John’s CE Middle School Academy in Bromsgrove has said pupils ‘can come to school wearing non-uniform to enable children to wear loose, light-coloured clothing that will help keep them as cool as possible’.
The school said it would sell ice pops to pupils in aid of Cancer Research, and that pupils would be encouraged not to run during playtimes to prevent heat exhaustion.
Students at Houlton School in Warwickshire have also been told that they will be able to wear the school PE kit instead of their uniforms from Monday to Wednesday.
In a letter to parents, the school’s principal added that ‘pupils do not need to be outside at any time if they do not wish to be’ during the extreme weather.
Heatwave: how to cope in hot weather
According to the NHS, most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long, there are health risks. In England, there are on average 2000 heat related deaths every year. If hot weather hits this summer, make sure it does not harm you or anyone you know.
Why is a heatwave a problem?
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
Who’s most at risk?
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:
- older people – especially those over 75
- those who live on their own or in a care home
- people who have a serious or long term illness – including heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease or some mental health conditions
- those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and the very young, the bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
- people who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – those who live in a top floor flat, the homeless or those whose jobs are outside
Tips for coping in hot weather
- look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated – older people, those with underlying health conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk
- stay cool indoors – many of us will need to stay safe at home this summer so know how to keep your home cool
- close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
- if going outdoors, use cool spaces considerately, keep your distance in line with social distancing guidelines
- follow coronavirus social distancing guidance and wash your hands regularly
- drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol
- never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
- walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a wide brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the heat
- avoid exercising in the hottest parts of the day
- make sure you take water with you, if you are travelling
- if you are going into open water to cool down, take care and follow local safety advice
- Remember that while coronavirus restrictions are in place, you will need to follow government guidance to use public spaces safely
For more information visit GOV.UK: Heatwave Plan for England.
If you have concerns about an uncomfortably hot house that’s affecting your health or someone else’s, get medical advice.
You can also get help from the environmental health office at your local authority. They can inspect a home for hazards to health, including excess heat.
The Hereford Academy in the West Midlands is allowing secondary school pupils to start early next week and finish at 2pm to allow them to be ‘away for the hottest part of the day’.
The academy said it would also bring its sports day forward to avoid the high temperatures next week.
Clapton Girls’ Academy in east London will also be sending pupils home at 12.30pm on Monday and Tuesday.
Headteacher Anna Feltham wrote to parents to say: ‘Already, many classrooms are very hot, even with fans, and students are struggling to keep cool, drink enough water and maintain concentration in lessons.’
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