Could schools close due to the heatwave? Current rules and advice for teachers and parents

With the UK set to swelter in temperatures nudging 40C this week, it's understandable if parents are wondering how hot it has to get for their children's schools to close.

State-run schools in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin areas are all currently set to remain open on Monday and Tuesday
State-run schools in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin areas are all currently set to remain open on Monday and Tuesday

The first ever red extreme heat warning is in place on Monday and Tuesday, which warns of a danger to life.

The Met Office weather warning - which is in place across much of England including Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin - says: "Population-wide adverse health effects experienced, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life. Government advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only; seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice."

"Substantial changes in working practices and daily routines will be required."

The Met Office's red extreme heat warning in place across parts of England on Monday and Tuesday

So could schools close due to the hot weather?

By law, there is no specific temperature that can force schools to close, and they follow the same rules as workplaces for staying open in the heat, meaning there is no temperature limit for which pupils would have to be sent home.

The final decision on whether a school could close is down to the headteacher who will decide if their staff and students are at risk. Already, some headteachers in other parts of the country have decided to close their schools on Monday and Tuesday.

As of Sunday night seven schools in Shropshire - from Shrewsbury down to Bridgnorth - had confirmed they would only be 'partially open' on Monday and Tuesday.

The Department for Education has issued advice for schools during the heatwave.

"We aren’t advising schools to close during high temperatures, but school leaders should make sure they take any steps necessary to make sure children are safe and comfortable," the advice said.

It also said the Department of Health and Social Care recommends children "should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are in excess of 30C".

Children should wear loose, light-coloured clothing to help keep cool and sunhats with wide brims and should stay in the shade as much as possible. Sunscreen should be used to protect skin and children should be provided with plenty of water.

Measures that schools put into place are things like adjustments to uniform, allowing pupils to wear "loose, light-coloured clothing to help keep cool and sunhats with wide brims", while they should also stay in the shade "as much as possible".

The advice continues: "Sunscreen should be used to protect skin and children should be provided with plenty of water."

The Government also advises classroom windows should be opened "as early as possible in the morning before children arrive" and should be closed when the air outdoors becomes warmer than the air inside to keep the heat out.

Schools are also advised to keep the use of electric lighting to a minimum, and to not leave equipment that generates heat in 'standby mode'.

"Oscillating mechanical fans can be used to increase air movement if temperatures are below 35C – at temperatures above 35°C fans may not prevent heat-related illness and may worsen dehydration," the advice warns.

Schools have closed before because of high temperatures; back in 2006 schools across the UK decided to send pupils home as temperatures reached 36C.

According to the Met Office, temperatures are set to reach 37C in some parts of Shropshire - hence the red extreme heat warning - so school bosses will be faced with the decision on whether they need to send students home.

Temperatures are set to return to around 20C on Wednesday.

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