Last week saw a most unusual heatwave in the UK, which caused this piece of news by Hannah Richardson to come up on my BBC News app:
‘School teachers have renewed calls for maximum legal temperatures in heatwave-hit classrooms as the heat continues.’
Apparently some teachers have been reporting classroom temperatures topping 32C (90F). Some schools have been giving pupils ice lollies and renting air conditioners to help keep pupils cool. The NASUWT teaching union wants to see a statutory maximum temperature of 26C in school classrooms, with pupils and staff being sent home if thermometers went above this.
We in the UK are not used to extreme weather conditions. I think back to my own schooldays, to the heatwave of 1976, and also to the terrible winter of 1963 where it snowed until April. Did staff and pupils get sent home? No, they did not. Exam time usually coincides with hot weather, and a heatwave could last for a couple of weeks or more. Should pupils’ exams be disrupted because they and their teachers have to be sent home for all this time? Back in 1976 I sat my exams and sweated, before walking the usual 3 miles home in the hot sun. I remember it well.
Recently it also made the news that 30 boys from a school in Exeter protested at not being allowed to wear shorts in the heatwave by coming to school in the proper regulation school uniform skirts, which had been borrowed from their sisters or family friends. The head teacher gave in and stated that from next year the boys would be allowed to wear shorts in the summer, but not this term, as it might cause parents financial hardship.
In my grammar school in 1969 the girls wore summer dresses, but the boys wore long trousers and weren’t even allowed to take off their blazers (my husband says that the boys in his class were also not allowed to take off their blazers). We carried on regardless of whether it was hot or cold outside or inside. In 1976 I remember having one or two enjoyable lessons outside in the shade of a large, spreading oak tree. In 1963 my mother walked me to school in deep snow before going to her part-time job. Nowadays as soon as it snows many schools close straight away, and we hear on the news that ‘teachers are unable to get to work.’
Times have changed since I was a schoolgirl. Is it fear of litigation which has caused these changes? If a pupil faints in a hot classroom or falls over in an icy playground these days, would the parents sue the council? I don’t know about other countries, but in my UK school back in the 1970’s the pupil would have seen the in-school nurse down in the medical centre and had a lie down until they felt better, but which state schools have medical centres and nurses now in these stark days of cutbacks? All gone….all gone.
P.S – By the way, as we’re talking about schools, my granddaughter was given a ‘bronze medal’ sticker for coming last in a race on her school’s sports day. A bronze medal? In my opinion children should be taught that some of us can run fast and others cannot. Not everybody can be a winner. Whatever is happening in our schools? Perhaps it’s all due to the hot weather.