Will schools send children home if it is too hot?

xxx_heatwave_schools_jul22

Schools have been advised that children should not take part in “vigorous physical activity” on very hot days - Credit: PA

Sending your children to school during next week's heatwave may give you cause for concern.

The Met Office has issued a rare red warning of extreme heat for Monday, July 18, and Tuesday, July 19, with temperatures possibly exceeding 40C in some parts of the country.

Here is all you need to know about your children going to school in extreme heat.

What does the law say?

There is no rule that states that schools must close in extreme weather. 

Schools are treated the same as workplaces where there is no maximum temperature threshold at which they must shut.

However, the government’s Health and Safety Executive states that temperatures in places of work must be "reasonable".

Will schools close if it is too hot?

Most Read

James Bowen, policy director for school leaders’ union NAHT, said school leaders will be “thinking carefully” about how to keep pupils and staff as “safe and as comfortable as possible” as temperatures rise.

He added: “Whilst there is no legal upper limit for temperature in schools, they will certainly be doing all they can to mitigate the effects of such high temperatures.”

He said schools will make adjustments, such as limiting break times in the sun, ensuring pupils can access additional water, adjusting uniform expectations where appropriate and ventilating classrooms.

“Given that there is no specific upper limit on school temperatures, widespread closures would seem unlikely at this stage,” Mr Bowen said.

Is there any guidance for schools?

The government has released guidance on how to protect pupils from the heat.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that during periods of high temperature, children should not take part in “vigorous physical activity” on very hot days when the temperature is over 30C and that children should wear loose and light-coloured clothes, and sunhats with wide brims when playing outside.

The Department of Education also said that schools should 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 electrical equipment when not in use.

Schools are also encouraged to use fans when temperatures are below 35C but not above as they could worsen dehydration.

Is the heatwave dangerous for children?

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said the weather will make it “potentially dangerous” for youngsters to take part in physical activity in the sun.

Dr Bousted said: “Schools will prioritise safety and wellbeing.

“It is potentially dangerous to take part in vigorous physical activity in extreme heat, with the risk of heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.”

She said headteachers will be “checking the local weather forecast and using their professional judgment to cancel or reschedule any activities involving strenuous exercise to protect children and staff”.