Five tips for behaviour management in a heatwave

We need to plan ahead and make adjustments to minimise disruption in overheated classrooms, says Nikki Cunningham-Smith

behaviour tips for teachers in a heatwave

The only weather that can strike fear in me as a teacher is a heatwave.

Stiflingly hot schools are, you see, hell for behaviour management.

What can we do, if anything, when dealing with restless, distracted, wilting, way too hot kids?  


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Because I do empathise with them. As staff, we have the ability to dress appropriately for the weather, whether that be a breathable skirt, or leaving the tie off and opening the collar.

Meanwhile, most pupils are in tailored black trousers that may also be a little short and tight because it’s that time of year where they have a growth spurt and parents are playing trouser chicken, to see if they can save buying new trousers until September.  

It is unfortunate that almost every uniform is black or dark grey so has a habit of retaining the heat.

The only solution is to make reasonable adjustments. Here are my five tips.

1. Address the uniform policy before the heat hits

Pre-empt and plan: use your school councils to come up with reasonable uniform changes for when the heatwave hits, so that everyone knows the drill when it happens.  

It may be tailored shorts and summer dresses are added to uniform lists in secondary. It may that a tie can be left off. Whatever it is, put it in the policy and be ready for it.

2. Plan the cooling tools ahead of time, too

Schools do not need to get caught up in the first come, first served Hunger Games-esque equipment scramble for any available fans. Consider the matter in September (when the heat premium isn’t added on to the cost) and have them squirrelled away ready to whip out when the degrees dial up. If we want our students to learn, fans are not a luxury but an essential.

3. Consider adapting lesson plans

Some lessons are much more preferable in the heat than others. If you can get the class to a cooler place while still teaching them what they need to know, then why wouldn't you?

4. Get the water ready

Have a water source in your classroom – water caddies will minimise disruption if you can trust your class to get a drink as and when.  

Encourage water bottles and sipping during the lesson so that students are hydrated throughout. Suggest they go to the toilet quickly before their next lesson so that they are not distracted from learning because of requesting toilet trips mid-lesson.

5. Bring a water gun, if you dare

Full disclosure, I have definitely shot a water gun at a willing child or two while I've been on break duty. We should still be keeping their days fun when we can. Just be prepared for them to try to get you back!

Nikki Cunningham-Smith is an assistant headteacher in Gloucestershire

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