Heatwave: How hot does it have to be for schools to close and what are the uniform rules?

Schools are relaxing uniform rules and adjusting timetables in order to cope with the extreme heat Credit: PA

The Met Office has issued its first extreme heat weather warning - so what does that mean for schools?

The extreme heat alert warns of an "exceptional" hot spell on Monday and Tuesday, leading to "widespread impacts on people and infrastructure."

However, there is no single rule which states that schools must close in periods of extreme weather, as it is up to individual schools to decide whether or not to shut.

Since Monday, parts of the UK had been issued an amber heat warning, indicating there could be a danger to life or potential serious illness - and some schools are already adjusting their rules for the conditions.

These risks will increase at the start of next week, when a rare red warning will be in place throughout much of England.

The red 'extreme' heat warning covers most of England on Monday and Tuesday. Credit: ITV News

According to the Met Office there is a “very likely” risk to life and the 40C barrier could be broken.

Children sweat less than adults and cannot regulate their body temperature as well, so what measures are school taking to keep pupils safe?

Red heat warning issued in UK for first time ever >

What is a red weather warning for extreme heat? >

Relaxed uniform rules

Schools up and down the country are undertaking measures such as closing early, allowing pupils to wear PE kit or rescheduling sports days to cope with rising temperatures next week.

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “With temperatures predicted to continue rising into next week, we have contacted all West Sussex schools to share national guidance around managing severe weather.

"We have asked all headteachers to make preparations for how best to manage the hot weather so pupils and staff can enjoy the last week of the school year safely.”

Many schools are allowing pupils to wear non-uniform wear in order to keep cool during the heatwave.

For instance, St John’s CE Middle School Academy in Bromsgrove has said pupils can wear loose, light-coloured clothing.

Arnold Hill Spencer Academy in Nottingham said pupils who prefer to wear uniform will not need to wear a blazer or tie on Monday or Tuesday.

The Knights Templar School in Hertfordshire has written to parents and guardians saying pupils may wear their PE top paired with black shorts on Monday and Tuesday.

Teachers should encourage pupils to wear loose clothing and sun hats “with wide brims”, the government has advised.

Will schools close early during the heatwave?

Some schools and colleges are starting earlier, to allow pupils to study when it is cooler.

The Hereford Academy in the West Midlands is one of those allowing secondary school pupils to start early next week and finish at 2pm, which it says will 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.”

One school in Bromsgrove is selling ice-pops to keep pupils cool, with all profits going to charity.

St John’s CE Middle School Academy 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”.

All profits from the sale of ice pops to pupils in aid of Cancer Research, and that pupils would be encouraged not to run during playtimes to prevent heat exhaustion.

Will schools cancel events?

Some schools have made the decision to postpone or cancel some bigger events such as sports days.

Crestwood Community School in Eastleigh, Hampshire, announced it was cancelling its sports day as it did not feel that it was safe for students to be out in the heat all day, taking part in physical activity.

On the school's Facebook page it announced: "If we can reschedule in the time we have left, then we will, but the forecast is looking hot for the rest of the term, so this may not be possible.

"We apologise if this has caused disappointment, but we are thinking of the safety and comfort of our students and staff."

What is the government advising schools should do?

In an update to schools on Thursday (15 July), the Government signposted heatwave guidance for teachers and other early years professionals, noting that children sweat less than adults and cannot regulate their body temperature as well, which puts them at risk of heat stress and exhaustion.

During heatwaves, teachers are advised to encourage pupils to wear loose clothing and sun hats "with wide brims".

Children playing in school playground. Credit: PA Images

Staff should open windows as early as possible before pupils arrive in the morning to improve ventilation and should keep the use of electric light and equipment to a minimum.

Mechanical fans can be used when temperatures are below 35C but not at higher temperatures as they can make 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.

What does it take for a school to close due to the heat?

According to law, there is no specific temperature that will force UK schools to close.

The rules around temperatures in schools are the same as those in the workplace - where there is no set rule on what is "too hot".

However, the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says there is a responsibility from an employer to ensure conditions are "reasonable" in a workplace for their staff.

The guidance reads: “In offices or similar environments, the temperature in workplaces must be reasonable. There’s no law for maximum working temperature, or when it’s too hot to work.”

They add that the employer must “keep the temperature at a comfortable level, sometimes known as thermal comfort” and “provide clean and fresh air”.

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